When I was growing up I had a mostly adversarial relationship with my younger sister. Looking back, the responsibility for the tone of our relationship falls firmly in my court. When I was angry, she felt my wrath. When I was in a good mood, she didn’t. I can’t really say what drove my feelings, but the closest emotion I can pinpoint now, decades later, is jealousy. As teens we became friends, and I came to realize how much more alike we were than different. And of course when she died of cancer when she was 17 and I was 20, it felt all the more awful because we’d just started to enjoy our relationship. I know we would have been extremely close as adults.
Last weekend the girls and I were out for the day and stopped in to a Dunkin Donuts for a quick lunch. The girls each got a breakfast sandwich: croissant with egg and sausage for Krystal and bagel with egg and bacon for Belle. I had one of their “lighter’ options. I watched them make these sandwiches, and may be turned off to sandwiches there forever. They grabbed a pre-made sandwich from a cooler, popped it into a microwave, wrapped it in paper and stuffed it in a bag. We grabbed one of the small tables inside and ate.
We all like really crispy bacon. Like, practically burnt crispy. And the bacon in Belle’s sandwich was decidedly not cooked to our liking. Big surprise, huh, considering how it was cooked. And all at once, Belle started choking, was unable to catch her breath. Three women standing in line near us, who must be mothers, leaned in with offers to help. I banged her on the back once, and swiped her mouth, taking out a piece of bacon. The choking continued, so I reached in again with my finger to swipe again, and pulled out a super long piece of bacon fat, which was halfway down her throat. Choking stopped, breathing returned to normal. It wasn’t really scary to me until it was over. But of course she was never really in any danger and we went on with our day.
Tonight Krystal and I were in the car on the way to pick up Belle and she said, “I’m afraid to eat at Dunkin Donuts because Belle choked.” I reassured her that it was not Dunkin Donuts that made her choke, but undercooked bacon, and she really didn’t have anything to worry about. Then she said, “I know sometimes I say I wish Belle wasn’t around, but I keep thinking, what if she really choked and died? I’d really miss her.”
I am pretty sure I didn’t have that kind of self-awareness at eight years old. Sometimes the wisdom this kid comes out with stops me in my tracks.
I told her a little bit about how I felt about my sister when I was her age, and how now that she is really gone, it is the one thing I’d change in my past if I had the power to go back. And this got her thinking about all the ways different choices or events in our life can color what comes next. She said that sometimes she wishes she hadn’t been adopted, but then she thinks about not having me for a mom, or Belle for a sister, and she can’t imagine it. She said she wishes she could have it both ways – to have me for a mom, and to know her birth mother and know why.