Sisters


Samantha loved peppermints when she was a little girl. She loved to go to her grandpa’s diner and order one cheese omelette with hash browns and white toast with orange jelly. She always had a cream soda with extra ice and a cherry to go with it. But the high point of her breakfast was always the peppermint. She got to stand behind the cash register taking people’s money while she sucked on it, and said “thank you and have a nice day” to each and every customer as she gave them their change. I always thought she’d take over the diner some day, when her grandfather got ready to retire. Things change. That’s okay, that’s okay.

Samantha was adopted. People said things back then, Samantha being the one who brought on our “real” child, Sarah. That’s how it happens, they said, adopt one child and then next thing you know, bang, you’re pregnant. She and Sarah were only three months apart. Sarah was bigger than Samantha by the time they were a year old, and faster, and stronger. That happens even with natural siblings, I know, but it seemed like Samantha didn’t stand much of a chance, when I look back at it now.

Adaptation is a function of survival and evolution. To succeed in a given environment, not just in an individual life, but in the long run, adaptations happen in part to ensure reproductive success and the continuation of species.

In successful adaptation, more happens. I need to be green to protect myself and my offspring in this ecosystem, therefore I am green. My orange sister, on the other hand, stands out and calls to the predators, here I am, here I am. It’s not easy being orange. I try not to blame Sarah for Samantha’s failure to adapt, but sometimes I dream about her, seven years old, drinking her cream soda – that little girl loved cream soda. She loved graham crackers, too, and bonfires. We went camping a lot the year after she left us, out in the woods where we could picture her still, with marshmallows and graham crackers, the gap between her front teeth.

Samantha and Sarah started going to that church when they were in seventh grade. It was a holy roller church, with speaking in tongues and people throwing themselves on the ground as the spirit filled them. I said no, no I don’t want them to go, but we talked about it and decided we couldn’t in good conscience call ourselves fair and open minded in the matter of religion if we didn’t let the girls explore. There are phases in childhood. Explorations of place, of friendship, sexuality, spirituality.  All perfectly predictable, and we did not want our children locked into a single limited perspective, even if it was our own.

You know I place a high value on being open-minded. Sometimes, now, though, I wish I’d been less tolerant, more restrictive, and most of all that I still had two daughters, not one daughter who I love no less than ever, and a big gaping hole in my heart where the other one used to be.

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