Fly Away Home

(This essay originally appeared in Zibby Magazine entitled “Saying Good-bye to My Free-Spirited Sister”)

When I was seven or eight years old, I stumbled upon my parents’ wedding album while playing “office” in an attic storage space. I stopped my pretend filing and phone calls and stared wide-eyed at the flower girl in the photos, maybe four years old, who looked suspiciously like my sister Barbara.

“Mom! Is this Barb in your wedding photos?” I yelled while charging down the stairs toward the kitchen.

My mother froze mid-stir at the stove. I don’t remember all the questions that likely tumbled out of me—How can this be? Isn’t she my sister? Isn’t Dad her dad?—but I do remember her stony reply.

“I was married once before, a long time ago. But your father adopted Barbara. He is her father. That’s all that matters. Now please go set the table.”

She sprinkled oregano into the marinara sauce and closed the lid. Something in her posture told me that there would be no more conversation about it.

Barbara and I were the bookends of a family of five kids. The three in the middle made up a typical nuclear family—two boys and a girl, all two years apart—with Barb nine years older on one end, and me five years younger on the other. I was born during Barbara’s freshman year of college, and so we never lived under the same roof.

I’m ashamed to admit that I might not have thought of her much at all in my younger years, were it not for the photographs above the little red couch in our sitting room… read the full essay here.