Two Sisters | by: Sharon Draper
(a New York Times bestselling author and recipient of many awards)
This story may or may not be true. But much of what we present to others is fiction anyway, am I right?
Two sisters, born four years apart.
The eldest, born in summer, was a sunflower — light emanated from all she did. She glowed with success in academic achievements. She blazed her way through social accomplishments.
The younger, born in spring, was an iris, needing water and cool breezes and the strength of the earth. Her successes were stellar, but were always shrouded in shadow, never quite lauded nor recognized.
The love and bond of the two girls for each other, however, was sealed through a shared passion for autumn leaves and winter snows and spring blossoms.
Their mother, an avid gardener and strict disciplinarian, was determined they would bloom. Fiercely she ripped the weeds from around them. They were carefully mulched with composted leaves of love — to protect them from winter storms or sudden rains or frosty unseen chills. No ragged, uncultured piece of greengrowth would even dare to approach them.
Rooted in a small fundamentalist, rigid, uncompromising church, the girls were again wrapped in a protective coating that did not allow deviation from the allowable norm. Sin, lewdness, or immorality were forbidden, even as thoughts. Dancing was considered both carnal and damnable. Dreams and passions were not even considered.
The younger sister swallowed the message whole and worried about each transgression she might have done in thought or deed. She lived for Heaven to come, and used obedience and self-punishment for each perceived digression from perfection.
The older sister, also fearful of sin, absorbed the message less viscerally, but proceeded to follow the rules quietly. Disobedience was not an option. Neither was exploration or experimentation or variation from expectations.
The younger sister fell in love, but did not marry that young man, who was poor, struggling, and from a family with little education. Instead, she was encouraged to marry a man who was seemingly perfect — a doctor, from a prominent family, who would provide for his family. What he provided, however, was cruel control, demanding absolute adherence to his rules. He required she turn in receipts for every penny of his money that she spent.
He abused her, physically and mentally, but she could never prove any of it to authorities, who always sided with him when she lodged a complaint. The young man she truly loved from years before she lost forever.
She suffered for many years until she finally got enough courage to walk through the door and never return. For two decades after that, the husband stalked her, lied to authorities about her, turned her children against her. But she was free.
Free to live alone in poverty. Free to be hungry. Free to fear. Free to long for her children’s love.
The older sister also married — the childhood sweetheart, the smooth-faced, curly headed boy approved by both parents and church. She assumed this was love. She had never explored the world, her desires, her abilities, her skills. She never knew if she had any dreams — she never asked.
Gradually, however, her aspirations unfurled, like the petals of a flower about to bloom. She realized she had talents undiscovered, and abilities that had been hidden under responsibilities. She blossomed and became a hibiscus, a daffodil, a gardenia–an endless garden of hope and promise.
The older sister was also abused, although it took twenty years for her to realize it. Abuse is not just a physical smack on the face or a punch in the jaw. Abuse is constant infidelity, followed by apologies, followed by more infidelity. Abuse is accepting that, and apologizing for causing the abuser to stray away. Abuse is feeling inadequate and incomplete and ugly. Abuse is soaking an orchid with weed killer.
The younger sister, after years of prayer and suffering, received a job offer in another state. She accepted and moved in less than a week. It was overwhelming and perhaps impossible to swallow. Was she finally free? She still does not know. So much damage had been done to her physical and spiritual body that she may never heal. But now she lives with hope. And fresh seeds tucked into a window planter.
The older sister, who had been given a peek into glorious possibilities, also shed that silent, invisible blanket of abuse, and finally fled from what was seemingly a happy home. She left a garden of bright red roses — with their thorns. She sleeps alone with fear and uncertainty — and sweet relief.
This story may or may not be true. But much of what we present to others is fiction anyway, am I right? And truth is found within oneself.