When the Snow Melts

The last thing my sister wrote to me before she died was that we would see each other again, “when the snow melted and the mountain pass” between Cincinnati and Pigspittle “was clear.” She hadn’t known that winter would take so long and that she had so little time. I’ve tried hard not to hate winter ever since.

I think of her now and wonder when we became best friends. She was three years older, and a moody middle child. We shared a bedroom until I turned 13. We weren’t best friends then.

It may have been during my first year of high school. That October, I was nominated for Homecoming Court to represent the freshman class and she, a senior, was nominated for Homecoming Queen.

The movie Carrie would not come out until the end of the school year but I’m pretty sure we both thought we would end up with pig’s blood on our heads. We must have crossed over a teenage demographic divide, like a song meant for a country station crosses over to the mainstream and becomes a hit. We were popular on the fringes of cliques. Still, I like to think it was a magical fluke—some butterfly flapped its wings in India and then a sequence of events led to the ridiculous nominations that made us self-conscious and, yeah, a little full of ourselves.

We stood on the stage together like goats at a 4H competition. My sister had to give a speech. I don’t remember what she said but I remember feeling privileged to know her. We were unified, my sister and I, like two warring countries finally making peace for all to see, foreshadowing Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, shaking hands and winning the Nobel Prize. We were more powerful together. I wish I had stood up and yelled, “That’s my sister! Yes!”

The vote was later that day. We lost. It was better than OK.

When her roommate's banana had turned bad, my sister put a noose around it and left this note.
When her roommate’s banana had turned bad, my sister put a noose around it and left this note.

The past is murkier now because we can’t share stories. I rely on my version of the truth.

She might say that we became best friends later, when she called from college asking me to bail her out of jail. Maybe it was when she confided in me that she was pregnant and then that she was a lesbian. A year or so later, she accidentally dyed my hair orange. Those things add up:  bail, confidences, hair disasters. Maybe it was a slow build.

All I know is that by the time I was 30, she was the first person I called when I needed a friend. When she was angry and not speaking to me (it was a thing), I would leave notes on her door and messages on her voice mail, telling her I hadn’t given up, that I loved her.

I still leave messages on her Facebook page and imagine that she’ll post something funny back, like saying she’s in Canada and not really dead.  And I would laugh.

38 Comments When the Snow Melts

  1. Natalie DeYoung September 24, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Oh my gosh…weeping now.
    I have sisters, too. Gah.

    1. Meg September 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Celebrate them! Thanks for reading, Natalie. <3

  2. searchingforsubstance September 25, 2014 at 12:43 am

    oh. what a sweet but sad post. it makes my heart ache. i have a sister too and when i think about life without her, i cannot imagine it.

    thanks for honoring her with these memories and sharing it with us.

    1. Meg September 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Soapie. I’m glad it resonated with you. Best to you and your sister!

    1. Meg September 27, 2014 at 5:07 pm

      Liking is totally ok! 😉 Thanks so much for your kind support.

  3. Susie September 25, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Meg, You just touched me right to the core.

    LY Susie

    1. Meg September 27, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Awww, thanks, Susie. I know you know how a sister can be your best friend. Much love to you and your family.

  4. Stacie September 25, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I’m speechless, Meg. I have sisters too.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      Thanks, Stacie. <3

  5. Marcy September 25, 2014 at 8:15 am

    I liked how you sprinkled historical references through this. That’s how old memories are for me. I’m sorry for your loss.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:11 pm

      Yes, it’s the Forrest Gump style of writing. 🙂 Thanks for your condolences and kind words, Marcy.

  6. Linda Roy September 25, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Beautifully written and so sad. 🙁

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Linda. Appreciate your comment.

  7. MamaMickTerry September 25, 2014 at 8:35 am

    Your story was the first I picked to read from the grid and I just don’t know how anything else can match.
    I’m so sorry for your loss. You’ve captured the love, the angst the missing here and it makes me ache for you. I have a sister, too…a moody middle with a penchant for drama and red lipstick. Thank you for sharing such a personal side of you. Your fiction is incredible, but your truths are divine and heart tugging.
    Now…to find a box of Kleenex.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      Thanks so much for your empathy and sweet words, Michelle. Those moody middle sisters are so complicated but inspire a fierce loyalty, which is how I felt about my sis. Really grateful for your friendship, sweetie. xo

      1. MamaMickTerry September 29, 2014 at 8:26 am

        And I am grateful for yours. xo

  8. Jen September 25, 2014 at 9:11 am

    This is so touching and heartbreaking all at the same time. That last sentence… that’s that same feeling that made me truly realize what it means when we say we “lost” someone when they pass away. It’s agonizing. I’m so sorry. 🙁

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      It is agonizing! It took me so long to talk about her death, let alone write about it. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jen.

  9. Candace September 25, 2014 at 12:12 pm

    That was such a touching piece to read. I don’t have sisters, so I desperately wanted my second child to also be a girl. As fate would have it, she was, so there are sisters in our home. It’s been interesting watching their dynamic through the years. In the earlier days, friends assured me that my girls would fight but would grow up and be close. We’ve entered the teen years and I’m crossing my fingers they will have the kind of relationship you describe with your sister. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks for sharing this, Candace. It may take a while for them to become really close, but chances are good that they will. Good parenting makes a world of difference in this regard, I think. So you’re probably already there!

  10. katybrandes September 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    Bittersweet. We don’t appreciate those things so much at the time and then look back on them later and don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      Indeed, it is easy to take things for granted in the present. I have to say that my sis and I shared a dark sense of humor so some of my best memories are of us trying desperately to find a spark during painful times. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Katy!

  11. fivehundreds September 25, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    The mixture here of what you say and what you leave out is so skilful, so beautifully done. And this is beautiful without being mawkish or manipulative at all.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:30 pm

      Wow. Thanks for this. I always fear that my non-fiction is mawkish, so it is reassuring to hear your perspective. I think if the word count were any higher, I would have ended up with a big puddle of mawkishness. 😉

  12. Andrea September 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    You made me want to call my sisters and hug them tight. Isn’t it a wonder the enemy that becomes your best friend as time passes?

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      Aw, I hope you did a get a chance to call them. Life is short. Sibling rivalry can take a toll in the early years, but then suddenly you realize that no one knows you quite like your sister or brother. I’m fortunate to still have five other siblings and I cherish them. Thanks for reading and commenting, Andrea!

      1. Andrea September 29, 2014 at 9:30 pm

        I did! Thanks for the inspiration. I live a plane ride away from them now, so we don’t get to spend time together like we used to. Funny sibling rivalry story for you. My younger sister is 7 years younger. My mom always likes to say she dethroned me from my reign as baby of the family and I never forgave her. Once when I was babysitting her, she was annoying me so bad I put her in the washing machine (don’t worry, I didn’t turn it on). Today we are best friends and she is my closest confidant 🙂

  13. Silverleaf September 26, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Oh, Meg, this is so tender, so raw and sweet and heart wrenching. You shared so much emotion and gave us all a window into those beautiful moments that matter. I don’t have siblings and I try sometimes to figure out what I’ve missed. I don’t think anything else in life quite compares. Thank you for this glimpse into the experience, your loss and more of who you are. I imagine it must have been hard to share. xo

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      It’s funny — I always wonder it would be like to be an only child. My husband is an only child. It’s hard to say whether one experience is better than another. It all depends on the family, I think. I know some families who don’t speak to one another, which I think would be hardest of all. Thanks for your thoughtful reading and comments, Silver. You are very dear.

  14. Lisa September 26, 2014 at 8:06 am

    sad. funny. sad. all the things.

    love this, so understated and so hilarious: “Those things add up: bail, confidences, hair disasters. Maybe it was a slow build.”

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:53 pm

      I’m so glad that some humor came through. My best memories are of us laughing. And laughing. And laughing. She would have thought this was funny–especially the faux-parallel of Begin/Sadat. Thanks for reading, Lisa! xo

  15. tnkerr September 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Nice, poignant, thought provoking, beautifully written.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:55 pm

      You are so kind, Thom. Thank you. And congrats on your well-deserved editor’s pick!

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  17. jannatwrites September 28, 2014 at 2:43 am

    I don’t have a sister, so I never experienced such a bond- or the loss. This was emotional to read, and you wrote it so well.

    1. Meg September 28, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      You know, each loss is different. I think it is entirely about the quality of the relationship. What they share in common is the recovery — it all takes time. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Janna.


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