Iris wakes up first. I feed her bananas and drink tea and tickle her feet, and then Ingrid wakes up. “Maaa maaa!” She sleeps in a big girl bed, but she treats it like a crib, sitting there calling for me to come and get her.
I balance Iris on my hip, and all the way up the stairs she kicks her legs and bounces. “Gidd! Gidd!”
I open Ingrid’s door. “Hi, chunkster!” she croons. “Good morning, little bear! Come here and let me give you a little kiss, darling.”
As we cross the room Iris leans toward her big sister, doing her best to levitate and swim across the air to her.
There is still the squashing. But besides that—and even right up out of the middle of it—something sweet and powerful is growing.
Ingrid pushes Iris on the swings at the park, and for many minutes they are both amused and calm. I crouch in the sand watching them grin at each other and am shocked: they are both happy at once, and I am not doing any work at all.
They take baths together. Neither of them has ever used a pacifier, but they are both taken with sucking on the heads of little yellow rubber ducks. They sit across from each other in the water, pale little wet-haired girls, each giggling face stuffed with yellow ducky.
They play peekaboo—with blankets, or with their hands, or with Ingrid in the hall closet and Iris flinging the door wide to laugh and laugh as the finds her big sister inside over and over.
There is squabbling and tipping and squishing, but also Ingrid finds toys for Iris to play with. When she has a snack, she asks whether Iris is old enough to have some, and wants to feed it to her. She wants to dress Iris up in winter hats and blanket capes.
And as far as Iris is concerned, Ingrid’s every move is material for delight. I know she is learning extra quickly because she has such a fascinating example to observe. Watching Ingrid, she swipes at her own head with a hairbrush, claps to music, tips her head back to drink from her sippy cup with a dramatic flourish.
The life of two sisters seems mysterious and wonderful to me and full of scary power. I have a brother. A has a brother and a sister. I watch sisters differently now—older kids, adults. Maybe they’ll be like that. Or that. It has such potential for terrific closeness, and also for unique pain.
Almost a year ago, at the park with Emmie and her boys, Ingrid and I and the newborn Iris watched N and O slide down side-by-side slides holding hands. “N and O are brothers,” Emmie told Ingrid, “just like you and Iris are sisters. When she’s old enough, you’ll be able to slide like that with her, too.”
From there, with tiny, boneless Iris snoozing on my chest, the prospect of sisterly friendship seemed about as likely as a cascade of ripe tomatoes did in the face of my scrawny May plantings. Which is to say, darn near inevitable, and yet so far off as to be really, really hard to imagine.
But here is the start of it. Sisters. What a treasure.