I loved being an older sister to my younger sister Jane. For the first fourteen years of my life we shared a room. I loved the closeness, the talks, the sisterly fights, the unspoken words and knowing we shared a history. When we moved to a bigger home, each with our own bedroom, I missed Jane.
On November 7, 1981 that changed, I changed. After forty one years a hole remains in my heart, but not my love for my cherished sister.
Jane and I were polar opposites. When she was younger she tagged along with me, I babysat for her, protected her and in her own way she looked up to me. One of the biggest thrills was the summer she came with me to overnight camp. For the first time I got to ride the sisters bus. I had a little sister at camp. She drove me nuts coming to my bunk every day and crying about not wanting to take horseback riding. We resolved the issue but secretly I missed her visits and felt important watching out for my little sister.
Banished to the kitchen for her sweet 16, not cool enough for her friends, I took it in stride and knew Jane would outgrow the behavior. Sadly we never had a chance to watch Jane grow up. What I do know is the unconditional love based on the cards and letters I still have and cherish and read and reread. Jane told me she was proud of me when I landed my job at Bloomingdale’s out of college.
In looking at the pictures, I was astounded to see the resemblance between Jane and I. She is standing in the living room in a long navy dress, hand on the piano. It could be a dead ringer for a picture of me in college where I stand in a long navy dress. Jane had a dimple on her right cheek, but side by side no mistaken we are sisters. It warms my heart to look at this picture.
I will never know who Jane would be today and dream of her often. I had the gift of her for twenty two years. A special sister I love then, today, and forever.
October is my birthday. A day for the past forty one years filled with many mixed emotions.
I recall birthday parties with Margie and Jane held in our basement. All dressed up in our party dresses, white ruffled socks, Mary Janes, sitting at long rectangular tables with paper party hats secured to our heads with a thin elastic, eating Hoodsies with a small wooden spoon and birthday cake. Different themes of party – Come dress like your father, Come dress like an animal, or basic birthday parties with pin the tail on donkey. Margie wearing my father’s suit jacked draped over her shoulders dragging on the floor. Jane dressed up as a bunny, eyes squinting never liked having her picture taken, surrounded by adorable friends in assorted animal costumes all smiling.
I hold onto the birthday cards received from Margie and Jane – precious words of love amongst sisters read over and held close to my heart.
Birthdays in our family traditionally celebrated with a cake, candles, and happiness marking the day.
The last time I saw Jane I came home from New York to celebrate my twenty fifth birthday. For decades my birthday held a cloud of sadness. Unable to disassociate a celebration with the harsh reality of the loss of my cherished younger sister. I put up a front for my daughters and parents marking milestone birthdays with large birthday parties, trying to mask the sadness and hollowness inside. When I met with one of Jane’s friends who told me Jane would want me to celebrate, I tried to switch the directive of my birthday. I attempted to find some happiness for several years. Sometimes a new plan distracted the heartache but always in the subconscious.
Now I am conflicted. I know in my head I need to celebrate the day. I have much to be grateful for, but my heart remains with a hole and missing my sisters. There is much I want to share with my beloved sisters as our beautiful family grows.
Birthdays are a day to be celebrated. When my grandson calls and sings Happy Birthday to me I melt and how can I not smile? The joy on his little face, the innocence, and love.
I do not know how I will feel this year but I have grown in allowing myself permission and compassion to feel whatever the day or week leading up to my birthday may bring. I will skate on the actual day, something that brings me joy and peace When I step on the ice and think about how Margie and Jane would be laughing how their sister Judy is now on a synchronized skating team and still as timid as she was at eight when we all started skating. I know Margie and Jane are with me as I glide across the ice, wind blowing in my hair, each one on my shoulder, forever in my heart.
Judy Lipson, is the Founder of Celebration of Sisters, an ice skating fundraiser established in 2011 to commemorate the memories of her beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital. Judy has published articles for The Open to Hope Foundation and The Centering Organization. Massachusetts General Hospital and SKATING Magazine featured numerous pieces on Judy’s philanthropic work. Judy appeared as a guest on The Open To Hope and The Morning Glory Podcasts. Her passion for figure skating secured the recipient of U.S. Figure Skating Association 2020 Get Up Award. Judy’s memoir, Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, released December 2021 by WriteLife Publishing.