It’s my sister Pam’s birthday today. She turned 48.
Pam is my oldest sister, 11 years older than me. That meant that when she was 16, and dating her now husband, John, she often got stuck having her baby sister, me, tag along. A lot of big sisters would find that annoying. And I’m sure she did.
But she never showed it.
My entire life, Pam has been kind to me. Gentle. Sweet. Loving. Ready with a hug, or a laugh or advice. She is always, always there for you. She’s not the kind of person who picks up the phone to call, but if you call her, you can guarantee she’ll talk as long as you want, and she’s always happy to hear from you.
She is my best friend.
In so many ways, Pam is the person who raised me. She took me everywhere with her. She helped me figure out how to get into college (and did the same for my sister, Kim). She’s been a constant in our family — and both of my other sisters have lived with her. I joke that I’ll get my turn some day. And you know, she always says, “Any time.” And I know she means it. Because she and John have always been there for all of us.
They’re pretty amazing. Quietly, wonderfully amazing.
You couldn’t ask for a better sister. A better friend. I got pretty lucky in the sister department overall. My sisters Kim and Tracey are equally fabulous, but in different ways. I hope my own kids love each other as fiercely as we love each other.
I love so many things about Pam. I love how she is so beautiful, but doesn’t even remotely give a shit what she looks like. It makes her extra charming.
I love that she isn’t even a little self-conscious. She’s always herself, and that’s always wonderful. I love that she’s kind of ditzy sometimes, and that she’ll make terrible puns and then laugh maniacally. She’s not afraid to be or look silly, to make a goofy joke, to admit she doesn’t know something.
To just be.
She’s just as comfortable in a gorgeous dress as in sweatpants. She’ll sit on the back patio with a bottle of wine and a game of backgammon with you every evening, if you ask. She’ll rock your kids to sleep, make them a snack, watch really bad TV with you, talk about books, solve the world’s problems.
She’ll go for a run with you. Or a walk. Or to the bookstore.
She’ll literally give you the shirt off your back — which she did when we went to Phoenix to visit and Genevieve threw up in the car. Pam had her shirt off to clean it up before we could even stop the car. Because she never, ever thinks of herself first.
I don’t know how much a double-album cost in 1981. Probably a fortune to a high school kid. But Pam bought me this:
And I carried it for show and tell every day to school. And at least four times, I picked it up the wrong way, dumped both records out, and they broke. And Pam bought me a new one. (In retrospect, my god, that’s an awfully adult album for kindergartner!)
But she got it. And she’s done the same for our kids — sending them wonderful gifts for holidays and birthdays. Taking out her son’s old toys when we come to visit. Reading book after book to them. Helping Jack color.
She was a really young mom, and at the time, I thought she was so grown up. It was so funny when I was the age she was, when I realized, wow, I remember when Pam was this age, and I thought she knew everything, and yet I still felt so young and stupid.
But I still feel that way about Pam. She’s more than a sister, more than a friend. There isn’t a word for what she is, I guess.
She’s my everything.
If I could be half the sister to Pam that she is to me, well, my God, I’d be the best sister ever.