When you’re a kid growing up with an older sibling, you get used to deferring to that sibling. In some ways it’s just one more person giving you orders, but it’s also someone who has beaten the path ahead and worn down Mom and Dad. Roz is five years older than I am, and did enough bad things to let me to later slip under the radar. For this, I thank her.
It’s funny how patterns and roles established in childhood hold firm. Gilly will forever be our little sister; I think she should be grateful she never ages. She thinks we should stop picking on her.
The problem with Sommerfeld women? We’re all a bunch of bossyboots. We’re all stubborn, though we’re each stubborn in our own charming ways. We’re outspoken even if nobody has asked for our opinion. We’re like my Dad in that regard. He kept all of his opinions in a satchel he carried around and handed them out to anyone who looked like they could use his opinion. He believed this was everyone.
I’m out in Toronto on Tuesdays to do my show, which is not far from Roz’s house; I head out early and take her grocery shopping when her husband has their car. Or rather, I scroll through my emails as she looks at every single red pepper in the display before selecting one. We move onto celery. Then chicken. She does it with lemons and limes and cucumbers and things I can’t even name. I throw a bag of Cheezies into the cart.
She tells me which route to take; she tells me when it’s safe to turn; she tells me where to park. We have an agreement. She can tell me where to drive, but she may not tell me how to drive. On an incline last week, she quietly said, “this would be a good time to use your emergency brake.” I looked at her. “You can’t help it, can you?” She shook her head.
When she said Easter dinner would be at her place, Ari looked at his girlfriend Taryn. “Don’t eat; we will be feasting”. He was right. This attention to detail I tease her about has awesome results. ‘Attention to detail’ is polite; she readily notes her OCD tendencies. Her nickname is One Two Three Four. In one store, I found some darling little spice jars and bought all they had. When I got home, Pammy took one look and said, “Roz let you buy nine?”
In her kitchen one day, Roz reached into a drawer and brought out a small screwdriver. Without missing a beat, she turned a screw in a light plate a few millimetres so it was perfectly horizontal. At Easter, Gilly showed us a picture of her spice drawer to compare cooking tips with Roz. The labels were in alphabetical order. I have little envelopes of spices that all fall on the counter every time I open the cupboard. I think I was adopted.
When the boys were small and the divorce was fresh, it was Roz who bought them back- to -school clothes and made up the shortfall of no medical benefits. It was Roz who helped me corral two tiny kids at the cottage over and over and called it a vacation. It was Roz who drove home on weekends to get up at 5am with two little boys so I could get some sleep.
After Easter dinner, I put a knife in the dishwasher. She turned it around. I pretended not to notice. She pretended not to see me pretending not to notice.
What do little sisters know?