Today is the 26th anniversary of the birth of the first Shadoan child, my older sister Shanna. She is by far the best sister I could have asked for–better even than if I had chosen her myself.
Shanna is the chestnut to my wheat, the brunette to my blonde. She is the Hansel to my Gretel, the alto to my descant. When we sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, she balances my bits (that only dogs can hear) with her own booming harmony, perfectly tailored to annoy my brother.
She has always been a better student than I am, even though school terrified her. She works much harder than I ever have at school–even though she prayed for the Rapture to happen before her chemistry exams, she still took them–and passed. Whenever I talk to her she is reading or studying, intent on becoming a great teacher or librarian. Her dream is to be the person who chooses new books for a library, and sets up the book displays. Any library in the world would be lucky to have her. She is exceptionally talented with languages–her persistence at learning Turkish, and French, and Spanish, never fail to astound me. (My turkish consists of a very few, mostly useless words–eggplant, very dirty, and … a third one that I have apparently forgotten. So that reduces my effective Turkish vocabulary to two. You see my point. Shanna, on the other hand, can hold conversations with actual Turks, and has recently fallen in love with Turkish soap operas).
She also selected a high-quality girlfriend.
She’s nicer than I am, too. She knits hats for cancer patients. She would actually do this while she was driving us to school–at stoplights she would pull out her knitting, knit furiously for a while, and say, “Tell me when it’s green!” She is the most gentle, sensitive creature in the world. She once spent days administering to a wounded butterfly, feeding him spoonfuls of sugar syrup. He didn’t survive, but I feel confident that his last days on earth were a preview of the hereafter, in my sister’s tender care. She is a nurturer. She adored my baby brother from the start. I, on the other hand, found him to be disturbingly red and wrinkly and loud. She has always brought home lost souls, from a stray Mongolian to her beloved dog Harvey, whom she chose at the shelter in part because he was so ugly. My sister is the kind of person who votes for the kitten she thinks is less cute on Kitten War, because she doesn’t want the less cute kitten to feel sad.
Shanna is my muse–it is for her that I created the beer-fetching robot. And she, in turn, sends the beer-fetching robot to my rescue when I need him. She is my knight in shining armor (way better than any boyfriend). Once, after bad boy troubles, she bought me pizza, which we ate in a field as a thunderstorm rolled in. We listened to Dar Williams and drove with the windows down. Her first car, a Ford Tempo, was named Gus Gus, after the mouse in Cinderella. When we drove to school, she always parked him by the neighboring church, so that Gus Gus could talk to the pews.
Shanna is also impossibly brave, braver than I have ever been. For instance, she once walked into a lab full of people she didn’t know with me, while I was wearing a lampshade hat. She was properly mortified (which I found to be hilarious), but she also didn’t disown me. (I’m sure on occasion she would like to.) Even though singing in front of people reduced her to hysterics, she still managed to get on stage. She is a determined lady, my sister!
So here is to the best sister in the world–she is the alpaca to my surfboard, the tiny turtle in my teacup, the Frank’s Red Hot to my pizza.
And, because I am thousands of miles away from her on her birthday, I will have to give her her present virtually. Shanna, heart of my heart, butterfly of my tiny church, pew to my Tempo, tiny cup to my Turkish coffee, I give you An Alpaca Surfing, with the promise that someday I will buy you goats to milk and alpacas to guard them. And maybe a baby or two! I hear you can steal them from the mall with relative ease.