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What Sisterhood Means To Me

In the overwhelming array of photo albums and home videos that clutter our family dining room, all the pictures of me as an infant, toddler, and teenager fill up only one of them. Pierre and Lucien had entire books of their first three months and a full video dedicated to their recreational basketball games, while my childhood memories were instead recounted through shared photographs of me in the middle of my brothers as one family, one entity. It reflected the way I grew up: the youngest, always tagging along, never without at least one other sibling. Pierre and Lucien had been a category ­– “the boys,” as if they were interchangeable – but they accepted me without hesitation, molding me into one of them. Tattered Patriots jerseys and Nike windbreakers crowded my bureau drawers as a child, and burps, snot rockets, and the assumption that I, too, could run around without a shirt became accepted notions in our household from the first wobbly step I took.

We were together so often that people starting believing it was impossible to find one without the other. There’s this one picture of us after a game of hide-and-seek, where we are all crowded together in a flimsy cardboard box from our old refrigerator. Lucien is laughing, like he knows we are going to get in trouble for being in the cellar, and Pierre is smiling too, behind me, as if to support me if my tiny legs failed to hold me up as I peered over the edge. Childhood had blurred the differences between us; despite our varying personalities, we grew up together as a united front, innocent and full of that intrinsic, wonderful affection that bonds brothers and sisters together. They were my first examples of what family should look like, what love should feel like.

Yet, as we got older, we realized that we couldn’t always be thought of as one, as our age differences separated us multiple times, with Pierre and Lucien each taking their turns moving onto college in Michigan, and then later, to corporate jobs far away from our suburban Massachusetts town. When it was finally my turn for college, I too decided on Michigan, hoping to glean even just an ounce of the happiness that it had brought my brothers. On the 12-hour drive to Ann Arbor, my dad and I had long talks about my classes, the clubs I would join, the inevitability of getting lost on my first day. I confided my hope that I would find a small group I could connect with, as I was leaving behind my former rock – my family.

Little did I know that family had no biological limits. Little did I know that I would actually have one of those rare, successful random roommate stories, that friendships really could blossom on a 15-minute bus ride, or that people could be brought together over songs like Crazy Frog. Suddenly, my room – and my bed – were constantly occupied with Annie and her canteen, Morgan and her constantly dying phone, or Maddy’s goofy Vines. Suddenly, Saturday mornings were better than Friday nights, and Sunday brunch became no longer an option, but a requirement. Growing up with two brothers, I had severely underestimated the value of good girlfriends, having never experienced what sisterhood truly felt like. My brothers were and will always be my people, but for the first time, I was experiencing the joy of sisters. 

It’s funny to try and pinpoint an exact moment when true friendship is formed; as Ray Bradbury once wrote, “In a series of kindnesses, there is at last one which makes the heart run over.” When I think of when it switched, my mind wanders to yet another photograph, this time with my new family, on our first game day together. It was raining that day, so we had all bought ponchos, even though we regretted it the moment we walked into ASig’s backyard. At the time, we thought we barely knew each other, and we still had polite, normal conversations instead of using words and jokes that only we understood. In this picture, Laura is sitting rather than standing to the left, separating herself as the most eccentric of the group, while Annelise’s rain boots just barely cover the bananas and granola bars we know she’s stuffed inside. Maddy is to the right, put together and never without her stunning smile, and Morgan looks tall next to her, both hands up, the most fearless and honest of the girls. Again, I am in the middle, a mixture of them, my personality shaped and influenced by each of theirs. Just as my brothers and I once started together in that same box, these girls and I started a new life in our home of Ann Arbor, at the time so naively unaware of the jokes, conversations, memories, and friendship that would follow in the coming months.

On the way back from this game day, soaked, sleepy, and spirited, I remember running up State Street with Laura, singing old 2000’s songs in our ponchos and laughing so hard that we became winded. Mid-lyric I turned around to catch my breath, and saw Annie, Maddy and Morgan close behind. It was cold, raining, and the dining hall wouldn’t be open for another hour; Annie’s hair was messy, Maddy’s Converse were muddy, and Morgan’s “Michigan Library” tattoo had seen better days. In that moment, I realized I had found home with these girls, not home as in a place, but rather home as that comforting feeling that was ever present when I looked at them. Pooh said it best, telling Piglet, “You don’t spell [love,] you feel it.” United by our wistful daydreams, murmured fears, and communal understanding of our differences, family was an instinctual feeling when I was with my sisters. 

Images courtesy of: The Odyssey and Helen Gerondeau  

I am currently a freshman at the University of Michigan, studying nursing. I am originally from Maynard, Massachusetts, and I love Boston sports -- especially those which involve Tom Brady. I play French Horn in the Campus Band here, and in my free time, I like to try all the Group X exercise classes or watch my favorite show, "The Office." My favorite part of my day is getting my signature iced coffee and chocolate chip scone from Espresso Royale, and I love exploring campus to find new places to eat or study.
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