You Do the Math

Remember that word problem about the bee finding its hive I mentioned yesterday? My sister, Nicole, knows the answer. She didn’t even need a piece of paper to work it out. For as long as I can remember, if I had a question about something health, science, math or life-related, I turned to her. In my opinion, she’s a genius. I’d list out all of the reasons why here, but she’s reading this and will be annoyed. Let’s just say she’s an Ivy-league chemist. So is her husband. He’s a genius too. I’d venture to guess their adorable three-year-old is a genius as well and is likely already better at math than her auntie.

Nicole is three years older than me. When we were little kids the evidence that she was a genius was already there. When I was busy pretending the mimosa tree in our backyard was my castle and I the princess, she was busy reading the entire collection of Babysitter’s Club books and memorizing her Latin flashcards (of course she took Latin so she’d have a head start on all those scientific terms. I wonder how you say Donkey Lips in Latin?) When she would don a bathing suit, lay out her beach towel and casually read an entire book in an hour, I’d plot ways to distract her that almost always ended with me sitting entirely too close to her on said beach towel. She was really good at ignoring me. I have no idea how someone can keep reading a book when someone is singing, “This is the song that never ends, it goes on and on my friend…” but she did. One day I really needed some attention and it just wasn’t happening. I exclaimed, “You have no imagination!” She put down her book, picked me up, carried me from the front yard to the back yard and threw me on the ground.

Another time, to her chagrin, she had to babysit me when I was sick. Somehow I managed to spill the pink cure-all syrup on the countertop in the kitchen. Never one to get in trouble, and knowing if I didn’t take every drop of the medicine she would be reprimanded, she grabbed the back of my head and crushed it into the countertop, shouting, “Lick it up!!”

As we got older, I watched closely everything she did. In addition to her academic prowess, she sang solos in the show choir. When my turn came around, I joined show choir as well. She had the best feet in ballet class and I admired her ability to do turns and jumps I couldn’t imagine attempting. She was among the first female pole vaulters on our high school’s track team. So, I tried it as well (pretty sure I never left the ground). It didn’t take long for me to realize I was never going to excel academically like she did. My mom would say I am just as smart as she is, but was interested in other things. Perhaps part of me was jealous of how smart she was and decided to get attention in other ways: getting myself into trouble and being known around school as a party girl instead of “most likely to succeed.” She may not even realize this, but she has always been everything I want to be: ambitious, witty, beautiful and smart.

When she went away to college and I struggled through trigonometry, I always reached out to her for help. At some point, not sure when, it stopped being annoying. I stopped being jealous of her success (mostly) and instead openly praised her for kicking ass at life. I’m pretty sure my creative spirit impressed her as well. Sleeping together in the same room and even bed is no longer a burden. “Lick it up!” and “You have no imagination!” are loving refrains as a nod to the differences we have that have made us built-in best friends. After years of trying to explain to me how to calculate what the tip should be on our dinner bill, she now knows she needs to do the math because at 34 I’m done learning decimals and just want the answers. And even if an afternoon of playing with dolls causes her great anxiety (because what on earth are the dolls going to do today), I’m pretty sure it was her idea to fill a tupperware bowl with water and dish soap to make a hot tub for our Barbies.

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