Veeder: Glad to have sisters together again
I used to watch her pedal her little bike down the road toward the house, her curls bleached by the sun and her chubby face flushed from the effort it takes to navigate small wheels over uneven scoria.
I would have beaten her to the house, pedaling my big bike, shifting gears and booking it down the hill to ditch her. We were probably in a fight about something -- about how I'm mean and how she doesn't listen.
About how she won't leave me alone.
Because I was 11 and she was 6, and everyone knows that little sisters are annoying.
And big sisters are bossy.
I look out my window now to see her behind the wheel of her black Jeep, those same unruly curls escaping her ponytail as she capably navigates that scoria as a woman who has been out on her own for a while, calling home from the grocery store when she needed a recipe for mom's Sloppy Joes, calling Dad at his office when she backed into a car in the parking lot.
Calling me when she was lonesome for bike rides and the things we leave behind us when we grow up.
And so she's grown up now, my little sister. As she steps out of that Jeep, her arms full of things I asked her to bring for dinner, she leans over to give the dogs a pat. I can't help but notice her dimples from the house.
The same dimples we fussed over when my parents brought her home from the hospital and I asked if she could sleep with me in my bed.
I still like to fuss over her sometimes and remind her over a cocktail or a ride behind cattle of the embarrassing and adorable youth we used to be. I didn't know at the time when I was building her a fort across the creek from mine with a tin can telephone and a lawn chair mattress we stole from our mother that the little girl I was trying to keep out of my business and on the other side of the water would eventually become my refuge out here when sometimes, even in the middle of home, I get lonesome too.
Because she's back, back in our hometown just a few blocks from our oldest sister and a 30-mile drive from the ranch.
Funny for all the work I put into keeping her at a distance, I would build her a house right next door to ours if I could. I would string that tin-can telephone between our open doors, and it would be just like old times, only with electricity and proper furniture.
Only now I would admit I want her there.
Because there was a time when I didn't know if any of us would come back here. If you would have lined all three of us up at 16 or 17, you wouldn't have seen it coming either -- my oldest sister with her '90s combat boots and passion for undiscovered music, my little sister with a room she refused to clean because "I'm just moving anyway" and me with a guitar that compelled me to wander. We were a trio of young women who were expected and determined to be gone for a while.
And now here we all are again, but this time it's different. This time we're not a 17-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old. We are women with a direction that somehow pointed us home for such different reasons I can't begin to explain.
But I'll tell you this: I believe this little world of ours where we grew up, fought, spent holidays and ate our mother's cooking is so much better now that we're back in it together. Because there are things you leave behind you when you're out looking for yourself, but a sister shouldn't be one of them.
And even though we've got the keys to our own cars now, this rocky scoria road can still be rough on us, so I'm glad to have someone waiting on the other end to help brush the dust off.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.