sistah ...

... got you on my mind

january 18, 1997

The weather is warming up, and warm weather always makes me think of my sister. These are positive thoughts.

When I was growing up, my sister was larger than life -- she had so many friends, listened to such great music, and she always knew what to do. In my eyes she was perfect at everything -- a horseback rider who lined up dozens of ribbons in shows, a straight-A student who always was first in her class, elected president of every organization she joined, and a fairly hard-core partier with lots of friends from Milwaukee, not just from Whitefish Bay. A rebel and an achiever at the same time.

She is exactly six and a half years older than me.

She was a vegetarian; I turned vegetarian at age 9. She was valedictorian; I was valedictorian. She smoked; I smoked. She was anorexic; I was anorexic.

For her, this must have been quite a drag.

But she taught me. She gave me my first copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" at age 15. She deconstructed the sexism in advertising on TV and in magazines, fresh from her women's studies classes at U-Wisconsin. She picked up foreign languages like a virus and traveled to Israel, and then to South and Central America for years. I studied Spanish. I visited her in Chile. I read bell hooks and Andrea Dworkin. I started to churn out feminist and otherwise radical leftist essays. She was in Mexico City during the 1984 earthquake. I remember waking in the middle of the night, before even receiving a phone call from my parents about it. (I was at camp at the time.) Her building was one of the very few that were left standing. ("What did you do after the earthquake, Julie?" "I looked at all of the dead people.")

She is committed. She was an organizer for SEIU's famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) Justice for Janitors Campaign for years, as well as for other unions before and afterwards. She was named one of Wisconsin's "40 Under 40" community leaders of the future. She was eventually recruited out to Washington, D.C. by the AFL-CIO. She works there now.

She is more diplomatic than I am, but often less "nice". She has a sense of humor dryer than the Burning Man Playa. She is hilarious, biting, acidic, honest, and so fucking brilliant. And she is ethical to the bone. Except for when she eats the crust and leaves the inside.

Once, while she was joining me in a cross-country drive from Boston to Milwaukee, we got in an argument, and I finally confessed to her how important she was to me; how much I admired her; how it meant so much to me that she approve of me. She reacted with complete compassion.

My sister is the genuine item.

I eventually learned that I could do my own things. She did linguistics, fem studies, and Latin American studies; I did psychology, statistics, and law. She became an activist; I became a lawyer. She took on a "real job"; I quit mine.

But there is this psychic link; a karmic connection. She is there for me. She understands me. Likewise, I would do just about anything for her.

I do not think that she would be happy that I wrote this. She is modest. But life can be short, and I want to pay her public tribute. Perhaps that makes me the selfish one.

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Copyright 1997 Rebecca L. Eisenberg