I realized recently that I write a lot about my parents, my brother, my husband, but I don’t write much about my big sister, Kristin. I am surprised by my lack of writing about her as she’s the person I talk to the most in the world, second to Jon. I talk to her several times a week and, quite frankly, I’d be lost without her.
Kristin is the biggest big sister as she is the oldest of ten. But I’m the youngest of three, what? Technically, my sister and brother are my half siblings, but I rarely refer to them as such. My dad was married prior to my mom and the delightful results are Kristin & Nicholas, their mom & step-dad and seven other cousin-like sibling folks who are not technically my family but are important to me, even if I never see or talk to them. I am the third oldest of her line up (or maybe 4th because a brother of theirs has a birthday close to mine).
The big sister of ten must come with a tremendous amount of weight but that is a responsibility that is totally foreign to this “youngest of three/ only to my parents”. There is a nine-year age difference between Kristin and I and, as a result, there are big gaps in my memory of her. She tells me stories of being so happy that she had a real life baby to play with when I was born. Then around the time I remember her being around (or anything in my life for that matter), it mostly as my baby sitter. She was always very sweet to me, unlike my terrifying big brother who spent years 7-18 of his life literally torturing me. Then I became a teenager and, if I recall correctly, Kristin was over it! If I was 15 and my parents were away, she was probably around to keep an eye on me. That probably meant that I was likely having people over and she was annoyed because what 24 year old wants to be anywhere near that?! Regardless, we always had weeks together every summer at our Cape House. We still do.
Some time around when I went to college she moved to Sweden and this is where my memories of my big sister get real with no gaps or interruptions since that time. Instead of coming home for my college graduation, my brother and I met her in Stockholm for the first of several Robbins’ sibling trips. As my adult life progressed from the age of 21 through to present and in the years going forward, I don’t know how I would navigate the waters without my big sister doing it nine years ahead of me. Seriously. Break-ups, parents, careers, career changes, engagements, fiancés, parents, weddings, travels, miscarriages, aging, parents, aging parents, working in healthcare (ok admittedly we started that at the same time), raising Boxers, fitness. She’s done it all ahead of me and she gets me through. She got very sick a handful of years back during the week of our wedding and it was during that time that I told her (and realized myself) how grateful I am to have a big sister living life ahead of and with me. Without sounding like a broken record I try to remind her of my gratitude as often as I can.
Right around the time of college graduation Kristin taught me that life is all about “expectation management” and it’s my second most favorite phrase/expression (the first being from my mum “what goes around comes around”). I identify with this phrase most likely due to my tendency to lean on the side of control freak. Gather data, be prepared and usually you’ll win. Yes of course life throws a bunch of unorganized and unanticipated stuff at us, good and bad, but generally managing expectations leads me to be easily pleased and rarely disappointed. Good recipe for me. Thanks, Kristin.
I think if you ask my parents and people who know both of us well, they will say we are different. I actually think that we are different, but I can’t explain how because in a million ways, the ways that matter, we are extremely similar. Our similarities are heavily weighted when it comes to our sense of humor, emotions/energy/passion (for lack of a better words) regarding working in healthcare, emotions regarding Nicholas and his accident & political views, thank heavens. Seriously, how do you people do this without someone just ahead of you testing the waters?! As I get to know some of Kristin’s siblings, it’s a shared sense of humor that gives a sense of belonging or sameness. And to know Rhys, my nephew, is to witness the budding of that humor. When Kristin and I call each other there are usually topics to discuss, rants to perform, world problems to solve, anxiety to acknowledge and opinions to be validated. As I write I’m trying to find the right words to describe how well she understands me and how well we are synced up, but I’m having a hard time drawing any comparisons that make sense or come close to a clear enough description. That’s likely because, simply, she understands me in a way that only a big sister can. It’s that specific, that special and that intangible. To feel that connection is to have it and know it.
In addition, Kristin, along with my sweet & patient brother-in-law, Mike, brought us Rhys and he’s all we need. That little monkey of nephew love has a little bit of all of us in him. He doesn’t know it yet but, at the tender age of 7, he’s got a sensitive yet slightly odd way of looking at the world and we are forever grateful. Kristin will often send me demented nonsensical things that Rhys says and it’s those little snippets that make me beam with joy for that boy. Of the original five Robbins’ family members that I spent the first 33 yrs of my life with, before Jon & his family entered, it looks like Rhys will be carrying the torch for all of us, some day, and luckily he will have about 500 cousins by his side 😉