sisterhood

words and photos by Natalie Michie

The home I grew up in had one long hallway with three rooms at the end. When my parents recently bought a new house, my sisters and I all went back home to pack up our childhood bedrooms.

Dani, my oldest sister, had the room across from mine. Rebecca, the second oldest and the middle child, was fittingly in the room between Dani’s and mine. While we packed, we remarked on how our whole childhood was based out of the three rooms at the end of that hallway.

Rebecca and I spent countless nights as kids sitting in our adjacent doorways, talking and laughing while we were supposed to be sleeping, until my dad would come downstairs to tell us to go to back to bed.

We used to pass notes back and forth under our doors and sneak into each other’s rooms to sleep together on weeknights, when we weren’t supposed to.

Whenever we had somewhere to go together, we would all circle through each other’s rooms as we got ready to borrow clothes, get help with makeup, and ask opinions on our looks.

We’ve slammed our doors when we’ve been angry with each other, and we’ve spent hours sitting on our beds talking through disagreements and having heart-to-hearts. Those bedrooms saw us grow from babies into young adults.

And there we were, 20 years later, getting ready to leave them behind for good.

Dani on the left and Rebecca on the right.

When we were younger, the three-year age gap between Dani and I seemed like a big difference, and it distanced us a bit. Growing up, both my sisters saw me as the baby, but the way I envisioned them as older sisters differed. Dani, I looked up to and listened to, while Rebecca, I saw as my equal.

Rebecca and I had a close bond when we were kids. We would have sleepovers on the weekends, play outside together every day after school; we even had a long list of inside jokes that we would recite—which understandably annoyed Dani.

“I wish we were twins,” Rebecca said to me once. It was the summer of sixth grade, and my dad had just opened the pool. We were having our first swim of the year together, which was our tradition. I have fond memories of all of our first swims of the year, but this one, in particular, is so vivid.

I knew why Rebecca had said this to me. She hated going to school because the kids in her class were mean to her, and she had trouble making friends. At home, we spent every minute together, but at school, we barely saw each other. Hearing my older sister express that she wished we could be in the same class at school resonated with me, because I felt the same way.

At school, I was insecure about who I was and who my friends were; always wondering if anyone really liked me. For most of my elementary years, I don’t think I was seen as an individual, because I didn’t know how to be one. But that awkward, unsure person was just the version of me at school.

When my sisters and I played together every day at home, we were our fullest selves. I credit a lot of my sense of humour and willingness to be weird now with the freeness I felt with my sisters at that age.

One of the best things about having sisters is that you can never embarrass yourself in front of one another. You just sort of know that no matter what, you’re stuck with each other. This thought was comforting, and allowed us to explore who we were when we were together.

Although we fought sometimes, Rebecca and I were inseparable when we were younger. My dad would call us ‘two peas in a pod,’ and it really did feel at times like we were an extension of one another. But it didn’t stay like that forever.

As we got older, Rebecca and I went through a phase of not being so close. We stopped spending hours talking in each other’s rooms and stopped telling each other everything. It felt as if a wall had been put up between us.

This new distance with Rebecca was weird and difficult, but it opened up my relationship with Dani. For the first time, Dani and I were bonding on a deeper level. We began to really share with one another. We started to move past the somewhat distanced dynamic that we had as children, and this redefined my relationship with my oldest sister.

Dani and I started spending more one on one time together. In my eyes, she had lived so much and I valued her wisdom. But she was able to guide me without being condescending, which I appreciated. She knew how to balance her role as my older sister, but also as my friend. As we got older and grew closer, she made it so easy for our bond to flourish.

I’ve always felt close with my sisters, but becoming individually close with Dani showed me how I could have separate, nuanced and equally special bonds with both my sisters. It also taught me how lucky I am to have two people in my life who understand me more than anyone, and who are always looking out for me.

The unconditional love between my sisters and I was instilled in us by our mom. Ever since I can remember, she had a rule that we could have “no secrets between sisters,” and that we shouldn’t tell her any secrets that we’ve shared in confidence with one another. This taught us at a young age that trust and loyalty is the most important thing.

As the youngest child, I’ve only ever known life with my sisters in it. At times I take that for granted, but as I try to grow into the person I want to be, I see how much having them by my side has shaped me.

Now, the three of us live together in an apartment. Our rooms are all next to each other, our living space is intimate, and we talk every day. This is the closest and most secure I’ve ever felt with us as a unit of sisters.

Sisterhood is loud, blunt, invasive and at times, frustrating. But for us, through that, there’s always been an overarching feeling of love and warmth. Growing up surrounded by that love taught me how to care for the relationships that I value.

More and more, I find myself surrounded by strong, supportive and nurturing female friendships. I think a big part of why I have so many strong connections with women in my life is because of my sisters.

When I finished packing up my room, all my belongings fit into one large moving box. Filled with old diaries, jewelry I made as a kid, yearbooks and knick-knacks I had collected over the years, I hauled the box into the hallway and looked back at the room that held my childhood memories.

A lot has changed since I lived in that room, but the bond that I developed with my sisters there remains constant, and grows stronger every day.