Family Matters


Family Matters

Comfort Me

September/October 2018


It was 4:00 a.m. and I was the only patron in one of the most broken-down laundromats in the Commonwealth of Virginia. My sister Sarah, after decades of turmoil and tumult, had died the day before—a combination of pain and painkillers.

Earlier in the evening, my family had converged on Sarah’s condo to begin sorting through her things. We siblings were drawn to objects with obvious sentimental value—her teacup collection, her favorite, well-worn denim jacket. For some reason, I was attracted to her bedspread. It was at least five inches thick and had a swirling motif, with moss and pea-green colors conspiring to make the whole thing look even more hideous.

I’d hated Sarah for the first 15 years of my life. Part of that could be explained by the dynamics in large families, at least ours. Among the six kids in our family, our identity was determined by whether we were a “big” or a “little.” As the oldest child and a girl, my role was clearly prescribed: I was the boss, the leader, the junior mother, with all the privileges, praise, and often-resented responsibilities that went with it. Sarah, who came right behind me, always resisted my big-sister status, which I lorded over her whenever I could. Given our opposing personalities, the fact that we were forced to share a bedroom only added further strain to our fractured coexistence as children. The only thing we agreed on was that our mother must have found the dreadful-looking brown brocade spreads we kept…

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