Forsyth, four sisters, 1972
Four Sisters, 1972. Mina Forsyth.


Relationships with sisters are never easy.

The eldest of five children, I have three sisters and one little brother. As a child, before my brother was born, I used to have dreams where I’m counting my sisters to make sure that they were all present.  In my dream, I’d line them up and count and I always had a fear that one of them would be missing. The three of them could almost pass as triplets, but in reality only two of them are twins.

The twins always worried me the most because they would often be in their own world. Jackie and I were much closer in age. She and I are only a year and a half a part–whereas, Jackie is less than a year apart from the twins. Jackie and I were always in charge of watching over them, and sometimes we’d fail.

Because the twins were that good at getting away.

They were only a year old when the entire house realized that they’ve gone missing. My grandmother had hired two nannies at the time because my mother couldn’t handle all four children on her own. During that time in the Philippines, our family was fortunate that my Lola was able to hire help. On that day though, everyone had panicked and wondered where the two of them went, and as I sat on the stairs in our home, I noticed movement by the window. We found them standing on the window sill behind the curtain dancing and waving at the folks walking by. They were both naked wiggling their little bums. When we found them, were caught between relief, laughter, and the desire to scold them.

That incident was truly indicative of how the twins grew up. They were always in their own world. When they walked side by side, they’re heads tilt towards one another as if whispering was the only way they transferred their thoughts. I’ve always walked a few paces behind them, and the reason behind such method was because I felt that I must never lose sight of them.

There were moments that I’ve failed though. They were always that good about getting away, but I always had the ability to find them even if they were never aware of it.

As we grew older and started our own families, there have been moments where all of us sisters became focused on our own goals.

The dreams I had of counting my siblings evolved into dreams of tornadoes. In them, I’d find that it would be a beautiful day and all of the sudden a tornado would manifest itself, and I am running saving them all, and making sure that we are in a bunker safe from the tornado. These dreams have re-occurred time and time again. The scene may alter a bit: the tornado may be at a house, or in a field, or in a parking lot. The seasons would change too: a tornado in the summer, or in the spring, or in the winter. The images from these dreams were not what I feared the most in these dreams, it was the feeling of failing to protect and keep them from harm that would wake me up in the middle of night grasping for breath, and counting my fingers to make sure that I still have three sisters, and a brother.

Throughout the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that as the eldest– someone somehow had embedded in my mind that part of my filial duty was that I would always be the one to ensure my siblings’ safety, and failure to do that meant that I have failed in this duty. That I must constantly push myself into this role–oftentimes suffocating them from their own life. I realized at one point that I may have been the Tiger Sister version to the Tiger Mom theory.

What I had difficulty in accepting in the past is the fact that my siblings, just like my children, are their own persons. They can choose what they want in their life. And, whatever choice they might make, regardless of its difficulty–I am only their sister, and they have their lives to live fully and unequivocally.

So, I learned.

I learned to be happy for them, and not become an overbearing judgmental whack job.

I learned to accept that if their choices do not include me, I can be happy for them from afar.

I learned that in my quest of fulfilling the eldest sister role, I am not immune from making mistakes, and in fact, can be a righteous asshole.

I learned that part of loving them meant watching them grow into their own, and loving whoever they may choose to become.

I learned that at cataclysmic point in our lives, I lost sight of them. I forgot the method that I once used which was to walk behind them so that they were on my periphery, and without a mother to guide us, that it was my job to do. I’ve failed, and I’ve accepted that failure.

I finally understood what the tornado dream was teaching me.

Today, the twins turned 41 years old. They have become women in their own right raising a family, and becoming who they’ve always wanted to be. And, I feel profoundly proud of them.

We recently attended my niece’s high school graduation, and the majority of us were there. My brother and his family, the twins, their husbands, and kids. Bryan and Chloe were there as well. I watched one of the twins look proudly on as her daughter walked across that stage to receive her degree.

Throughout the ceremony as the noise around the stadium grew around us, and all eyes were on the graduates, I sat behind the twins, and observed how their heads tilted towards one another–still whispering thoughts that the rest of us will never be privy to. My periphery caught sight of the seat next to them. I felt someone watching me, and sitting there was one of the twin’s little daughters–her hazel honey brown eyes smiling at me. My 5-year old niece winked at me, and I winked back.

I realized then someone had taken over my method.

Happy 41st Birthday to my Mia, and Mae.

Your Ate loves you.


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