My youngest sister, Natalie, and I are only two years apart. There is a large age gap between us and our older siblings. Because of that, Natalie and I pretty much spent our childhood stuck together. If I went to a friend’s house, she came with me. If I got a new dress, she got a matching one. If I got a treat, she got one too. My mom said I was fortunate because I didn’t have to find a friend; I already had one built-in. At the age of 9, that was not how I saw things.
Just like every other kid in existence, I lived for the summer. No school, sleep in, play outside until you were likely to get second-degree burn on your feet (if you grew up in Arizona, you know what I’m talking about…). I loved summers. The highlight of each summer was the Ward Camp-out. Every summer, our church would have a camp-out one weekend of the summer. We all would head to Mt. Graham and sleep in tents or cabins. We were one of the lucky families that had access to a cabin. I love the mountains, but I’m not a fan of using a tree as my toilet. No way was I taking my chances of getting smacked around while trying to do my business. We all know trees are the guardians of the forest. They also have a wicked mean streak. Case in point:
Anyhow, I digress…the absolute highlight of the camp-out was the Saturday morning breakfast and games. Everyone would get together, pitch in, and make an awesome pancake breakfast. Afterwards, the kids got to play games.
The summer I was 9, it was announced that there would be a race. The winner would earn bragging rights for a whole year AND a giant-sized 100 Grand candy bar. From the moment I heard about the race, I started training. Go ahead and laugh but I REALLY wanted to win. You see, I was never very athletic, but at age 9 I was pretty fast. Everyone around me was athletic, musically talented, super-smart, but I was just run-of-the-mill-so-plain-it-hurts ordinary. I HAD to win this race. I would run laps around the empty lot next to our house. I even ran up and down our basement stairs until I got yelled at for making too much noise. I kept working at it. I was determined. It was going to be the best summer ever. I was going to win. I could totally see it. Cue “Chariots of Fire” music please…
You’re probably asking yourself, “What does this all have to do with her sister? Should we tell Becky she’s babbling again?” I’m getting to it…just be patient. Oh, and it’s not babbling. It’s called creative wordsmithing (…it could be a word…) So, as I was saying, I was ready. The camp-out Saturday breakfast and games arrived. I quickly ate my breakfast; I was too eager to take my time. In agony, I had to wait for them to play the little kid games first. How could they not know just how major this race was?! Finally, the moment came, and they called for the older kids to line up. I got in my place and started to focus – every good runner gets in the zone before a big race. I was just about there, when I realized there was someone standing annoyingly close to me – that should have been my first clue. Who could it be? Yep. You guessed it. Natalie was standing next to me ready to run the race. She saw me lining up, so she wanted to line up too. I tried to argue with the adults that this was a big kid event, and she was a little kid but that didn’t get me anywhere. I resolved to just suck it up and focus. This was my summer. I was determined. I was going to win.
Once we were all lined up, one of the adults went down to the finish line with a flag to give us the start signal. I crouched down – poised and ready to bolt. “On your mark. Get set. Go!” I shot out of there like a speeding bullet. This race was mine and I knew it. All of my hard work was going to pay off. I was ahead of everyone!! I was so far ahead it was like I was running at light speed. I was UNBEATABLE!
The finish line was in sight when I heard a cry. It was a cry I knew all too well. It was Natalie. I quickly looked behind me and saw that she had indeed fallen and scraped her knees up pretty badly. I’d like to say that I immediately ran to her, but I’d be lying. I did have a moment when I just continued on to that finish line…but I couldn’t. I turned around and ran back towards Natalie. While I did, all of the rest of the kids crossed the finish line. Someone else was getting my win. Someone else was getting my bragging rights. Someone else was getting my candy bar. I got to Natalie, helped her stand up, and held on to her as she hobbled back to my mom. Once my mom had her, I sat back and sulked. While my mom was fussing over Natalie’s knees, I was watching the other kids surrounding the winner. Man! It should’ve been me.
I was so bummed. Natalie walked up to me – bandaged knees and all – and gave me a hug. “What’d you do that for?” I grumbled at her. “You picked me up.” With that reply, she bounced on her merry way. While I was trying to digest that moment, the adult who was in charge of the race, came over to me, and put a 100 Grand candy bar in my lap. Confused, I asked her why she gave me the candy bar. I didn’t win the race; therefore, I shouldn’t get a prize. The adult looked at Natalie and then looked at me and said, “Actually, you got the best prize of all.” Then she walked off. What kind of weird kung fu moment was that? I wondered if she was coming back to tell me to I could go “When you can take the pebble from my hand”. Whatever, Master Kan. I had my candy bar and I was going to enjoy the heck out of it.
At least that was my plan…as I sat down to eat that candy bar, Natalie was by my side asking for me to share. Like the good sister I was (and still am…I hope…), I split it in two pieces and, of course, gave her the bigger piece. With chocolate on our hands and faces, we went off to play and that was that.
It wasn’t until years later that I understood what “the best prize of all” meant. What I understand now, that I didn’t understand then was that the love of my sister was (is) the prize. Natalie and I have been through more things than I have time (or inclination) to mention. We have endured more pain and heartache than I would wish on anyone. The reason that we made it through (relatively) intact was because we had each other. Numerous times, she has said that I saved her, that I carried her, that I was the reason we made it – that is not the case. We saved each other, carried each other, and each was the reason the other made it through. Why? How? The answer is simple. We both had the best prize of all – the love of a sister.
Is that cheesy? Perhaps. If you don’t have a sister (or a brother), you may not get it and that’s okay. All I know is that even after all these years, I will still always give her the bigger piece of the candy bar…because that’s what sisters do.