Twenty-something years later, we became two, when my sister graced the world with her presence. Leslie Nicole. Named after my Grandpa, who was also named Leslie.
At 6 months old, my parents had their first dose of uncertainty, when they learned Leslie had Cerebral Palsy. They had no idea what her limitations would be, and it must have been so hard just waiting to see what she could do. Much to their amazement, it hindered her very little.
In 1982, their second and final daughter was born...me! And then there were three.
I have such fond memories of my childhood. We would camp every Memorial Day, in our orange pop-up camper, catching caterpillars in empty butter tubs; Leslie and I would watch Gilligan's Island every morning before walking to school together, and in the summers, we would stay up until 2 AM watching Love Connection and Studs.
One of my favorite memories that sticks with me is when my mom would pick Leslie and I up from our Grandma and Grandpa's house after school, and we would stop to get Happy Meals before heading out shopping. It was the little things that mattered. We didn't need extravagance. We just needed each other.
My mom was, and still is, fiercely protective of her girls. She set firm boundaries with us, but we never questioned how much she loved us. I remember when I was about 18 years old. Leslie was heading to Chicago with some friends. My mom and I were sitting in the living room, talking about things that were stressing us out, and on a whim, my mom decided we should go to Chicago, too. We planned the trip in 5 days, and had an amazing time. That started a tradition, and for the next several years, right up until I was VERY pregnant with Ethan, my mom, sister, and I would head to Chicago every summer for a long weekend. It would take DAYS to list all of those memories, but the ones that stick out the most would likely be Sea Dog, the stinky cab driver, and "the dark side."
I got married in 2003. Leslie got married in 2009. She was my maid of honor, and I was her matron of honor. One thing my mom always stressed to us was that friends come and go, but we would forever be sisters. Making the decision about standing up in each others weddings was incredibly easy.
Late 2009, I gave birth to my daughter, Allison. I knew it would likely be my last pregnancy, and Leslie never planned on having children. She was on my left side as Allison was born, experiencing the entire thing right there with me. I don't think there is an Aunt in the entire world that was more proud than my sister. "Sessee" is what both my kids call her. Ethan is almost 8, and still calls her "Sessee".
2010 is the year things changed. A little after 2 PM on September 20, we were, in fact, only 2 for several minutes. Several crucial, intense minutes. Leslie's heart stopped. Her breathing stopped. She was essentially gone.
Something, somewhere said, "No, it is not her time"...and she came back. Those first few days after September 20, my mom and I both knew that although we were three again, the reality that we might only be two was very, very real. My mom couldn't imagine life without her daughter. I couldn't imagine life without my sister. And WE didn't WANT to be TWO. We worked as three. We wanted to be three. Please, God, let us still be three.
Amazingly, she started to wake up. She began to regain some function. Emotionally, it has been a hurricane. A crazy, torrential ride that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.
But guess what? This year, we spent Mother's Day as three. The three of us, sitting at the Melting Pot, laughing hard as we shared memories. Going to the Melting Pot on Mother's Day is another tradition for the three of us. Last year we didn't go. Leslie was still quite weak, so we kept it low key. This year, though, things have changed. We had a beautiful, amazing day together. No one actually said the word, but I know we all thought it some way or some how. "We were meant to be three."