It should be noted that she won’t be happy about this. My sister is not one to love the spotlight or to seek after public praise. But I’m the big sister (and have been for 30 years now) which means I do what I want. So, onward!
My sister and I weren’t always friends. Not like we are now, anyway. And my friendship with Laura has been the absolute best part of my twenties. This is the story of how that happened.
Our worlds have always been parallel, as is prone to happen when you have only known life without the other for two brief minutes. But for most of our lives, they were just that – parallel, but not touching. I think the lines started to bend slightly in high school, when marching band and young life and musical theater drew both of us in. But even then, we occupied different corners and were drawn by different things.
Then, we left for college – me to Pennsylvania and Laura to Michigan; both small, Christian, liberal arts schools, but again, parallel. We had the same sort of existence: classes, new friends, boy drama, chapels, meals in the dining hall, shared living spaces, crazy antics – but parallel, not the same, and aside from occasional visits, no longer even touching.
If our lives were ever to pull further away from each other, after graduation would have been the time. I headed off to a fast-paced fellows year in DC and Laura stayed in Holland, commuting to Grand Rapids. And I suppose they did pull apart a bit, as it was harder to explain our separate worlds to each other, and limited vacation time meant that we weren’t spending days at a time seeing how the other lived. I imagine that it would have been easy to continue on this way, perhaps forever; checking in on the other’s world, popping by as a tourist in an unfamiliar place.
But that is not our story. This is.
Not everyone is given a twin, someone to share a lifetime with. And as we turned 25, we decided to celebrate that fact, and take ourselves to Europe. Ireland, specifically, and then Edinburgh and London. And I think that’s when the first big shift happened. Every part of the trip was done together from the extensive planning beforehand to spending ten full days together. But more than that, in going to Ireland, we were entering Laura’s world – she had studied abroad there, and so she was in charge. And our parallel tracks crosses, and switched places, growing a bit closer together in the process. In between cross country bus trips, tours of castles older than our country and attempting to hide our obvious tourism, we had a lot of conversations – about growing up, and real jobs, and how church was hard, and what it felt like to watch our friends just two life stages ahead of us. They weren’t revolutionary conversations, but that was the beauty of them. They were points of connection, pulling our lives closer together.
The next year, Laura invited me to join her at this conference called Hutchmoot. She had attended the year before and come home…fuller. I was truly honored to be invited, to get a backstage pass into her world. My expectations were fully set on being a spectator, perhaps learning more about Laura in the same way that an anthropologist might. But what happened instead was that the community at Hutchmoot, including my sister, kept inviting me in. They behaved as if I belonged, and much to my surprise, I found that I did. This has become so much more than just a shared membership. Hutchmoot, the Rabbit Room, and the friends that we have made there have given me and Laura a significant shared vocabulary. For the first time since we were very young, we were listening to the same music, reading the same books, thinking about the same topics. We were being shaped and influenced by the same sources, and in the process, without really trying, we found that our lives were starting to overlap. There was more laughter on our phone calls, more honesty, more shared experiences to draw on. Out of that first conference came two more trips to Nashville with a third on the calendar. We’ve road-tripped to West Virginia to spend a weekend with new friends and gone to visit the other to coincide with concerts or special events. In short, we’ve done the things that friends do. And we’ve become rather good friends along the way.
These days, we’re pretty good at doing life together from a distance. We catch up on the mundane details of our days as they are unfolding, through gchat; we text and call and FaceTime during important cultural events like electing a new Pope or the Olympics or the premier of the final Harry Potter movie. But in addition to daily life, each year since Hutchmoot, we’ve gone on an adventure. In 2012, we invited our parents on our second European adventure, this time to Italy. Parents are great because they come with nicer lodging and fancier meals, and if they’re my parents, they’re also just delightful company. Laura and I got to continue forging new memories together, this time with our parents by our side.
In 2013, the international travel budget was a bit depleted as Laura was paying for grad school and I had just started a new job with significantly fewer vacation days. Undeterred, we managed to find a long weekend to head south and pay Hogwarts a visit. It is not an exaggeration to say that I was just about as excited to see the Hogwarts castle in the distance as I had been to see Big Ben. Judge me if you must. And this year, we’ve gone to New York City to be together as we enter another decade of life, side by side.
My sister is steady and faithful, inquisitive and grounded. She is thoughtful where I am impulsive and quick to listen while I am usually just quick to speak. Each year has made her more compassionate and her many, many hours spent listening have shaped her to be wise. She is passionate about good and true stories and can offer you words with the power of transformation behind them, whether they are her own or referenced from another. Laura is a rememberer – she got the part of the brain that absorbs trivia and details, but she also remembers birthdays and milestones and formative conversations. She is a world-class planner, an excellently resourceful cook and a great reader. These things have all been true of Laura for a long time, I have just been slow to see them. And though I wish that I had come to appreciate Laura much sooner, I am so grateful to know who she is now. She is simply the best kind of person, and one whom I am honored to call a friend.
Happy birthday, Laura! I couldn’t ask for anything more.