Molly, my youngest sister, was once obsessively into Jim Carrey. Not any sexual attraction—she was 9-years-old for god’s sake. But she thought the delivery of Carrey’s classic phrase “alrighty then” was absolutely hysterical.
So much so, that she even had a t-shirt that she wore obsessively throughout the fourth grade. You know, when it was the mid-90s and stick figure people on t-shirts were “in” thanks to Clueless.
Molly is exactly one year and nine months younger than me. We have three older siblings: Meghan, the perfectionist, who is older than me by nine years; Danny, the struggler, who was older than me by seven years; and Paul, the introverted observer, who is older than me by five years.
Molly and I led significantly different childhoods than Meghan, Danny, and Paul; they were raised under the guise of a happy family before our parents decided to separate in 1994 and divorce in 1996—they were all in their late teens and ready to leave the family home for college.
These siblings didn’t grow up with the absence of their father or the realization he was a cheater, experience every other weekends, or attend therapy or court sessions as children, or have their grandmother raise them as our mother worked to make ends meet.
With that being said, together my brothers and sisters were still a content family; Molly and I just had our own special language with our millennial glory and shared experiences.
Molly and I would walk with my two brothers and oldest sister around the lake at the Arizona State University Research Park, a half-mile walk from our neighborhood, feeding bread to ducks and laughing at our annoying little sister Molly performing her stand up comedy.
She stood proudly on a big boulder at the end of the lake—probably scaring the ducks away—reciting Jim Carrey one-liners and making us laugh with her sheer dorkiness.
When “The Mask” came out in 1994, Molly discovered (through the pre-Internet years and thanks to Seventeen magazine) that she could get an autographed picture of the legendary James himself if she wrote a note to him.
Molly spent days putting thought into that seven-page fan letter, confessing her comedy love to her one-and-only on personalized stationary she had received that Christmas.
She never received an autographed picture back. Betrayed and dismayed, her love for Jim Carrey waned and she moved into a comedy rebound by watching Adam Sandler on Saturday Night Live.
But five years ago when I decided to move to Seattle, we were digging around my mom’s garage finding items for me to take with me on my new chapter, and guess what? We found those rare, infamous family treasure chests: pictures of Meghan twenty pounds heavier with Kelly Kapowski’s hair before she became a fit power attorney, our brother’s beaten baseball mitt from high school that he so loved, and finally a letter postmarked to Jim Carrey that my mom had never placed in the post box.
I think the discovery of that letter is funnier than the comedic delivery my obnoxious sister ever delivered at the park. My mom’s ADHD became the star that day as we reread 9-year-old Molly’s obsessive thoughts about Ace Ventura in smeared pencil lead.
Now as you read this, you’re probably wondering: What’s the point of this story?
The point is this: Through our parent’s messy divorce in 1996, my brother’s struggle with drug addiction and ultimate death in 2005, Molly’s fight with anorexia in 1999 and then rehab in 2007, my emotional (and very public) breakdown in 2007, and Molly’s conquering of alcoholism today—I can attest that Molly and I have learned what real friendship and sisterhood is about retaining a sense of humor, a sense of family, and a true sense of trust in each other’s very real humanity.
Even today, Molly is the total opposite of me; though we’re both sickeningly moody and emotional. She is absolutely laid back, makes others feel naturally at ease, isn’t afraid to be herself, and has a magical way of making anyone laugh with her quick wit.
Here’s the truth: I am a weirdo. A proper weirdo. I make people uncomfortable even in this age so-called age of awkwardness. (#Overhyped.) I overanalyze to the point of nauseam, am needy and ask obvious and repetitive questions, have massive anxiety where I can’t even look people in the eye at times—and all of this, I thought, was a natural part of my awesomeness because of Molly’s understanding of me.
Together, Molly and I speak a best friend language, which is probably why we’re so offbeat in general—though, when others see us interact together they get it. In the outside world, we’re oddly-shaped puzzle pieces—maybe a bit refreshing to others—but when we’re together, others have an a-ha moment as they see how we interact and fit.
One time when we were playing Password as kids, we absolutely killed the other team with our “inner speak”—basically because we grew up together experiencing the same things.
The password was: “Bully.”
I said: “Redhead.”
Molly immediately said: “Bully.”
Who doesn’t know automatically visualize that moment from A Christmas Story of that punk freckled carrot head being a bully to four eyes? Molly did. And so did I.
Growing up together is also a symptom of our disgustingly charming co-dependence. Every Saturday, our Mom would drop off us at the now-dead local Arizona chain Smitty’s. Molly and I would split a Cinnabon and hot chocolate, and then join Mom in shopping. They had a hair salon at the store, which should have spoken volumes about the hair style 6-year-old Molly was about to get. An example in a few seconds…
Mom drops Molly off at the salon and is politely attempting to explain to the stylist what she wants. The woman says, “Oh, a pixie cut!?” and my mom shrugs it off. “Okay, yes, yes: A pixie!”
Mom and I return with a bag of groceries 20 minutes later, and Molly’s soaked in her tears wearing only what resembled a boy haircut. In attempt to make her feel better, I get that stupid pixie cut and was popularly nicknamed “Mary Poppins” by my second grade peers at Catholic school.
I wouldn’t have went if it weren’t for Molly. The youngest of five, she was naturally smart and “talented” for a 6-year-old. Because she was so developmentally advanced, only parochial schools would accept her age range into first grade, and my ever-ambitious, ever-religious Mom wanted her children to succeed.
When I was in sixth grade and Molly was in fifth, our Dad met a woman online (he was very ahead of his time), and moved away two weeks later in 1996 to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania after the divorce was finalized.
Mom decided it was best that Molly and I go to “kid therapy”—oddly located at the ASU research park—where we basically sat around in a circle with other kids and tell stories about our day.
All I remember is sitting with Molly and giving each other glances like, “This is a waste of time. There isn’t anything wrong with us.” As counselors put into laymen’s term what “affairs” and “divorce” and “sex” really meant.
Molly and I were emotionally fine. She was in third grade and I was in fourth—why wouldn’t we be? After Dad left, our grandfather passed away the same year from a heart attack and our grandmother—who raised our family like another parent—moved into our family house.
Three years later, grandma was diagnosed with acute leukemia and we spent time by her side with our aunts and uncles flying in from all over the place to visit us that summer of 1999.
Grandma passed away my first year of high school, and later that year kids at school called me a lesbian because I had kissed a girl just to feel what it was like to kiss someone.
I hated everything about Catholic school. I escaped into the internet and found Halsafar, an online friend from Canada who was my age. We were both into anime and into making websites—and in retrospect he was probably a serial killer or child molester or someone looking for someone exactly like me—needy.
It was also around this time that Molly stopped eating. She would jump rope and had to reach 1,000 jumps. If she didn’t get to 1,000 then she’d have to start over, and I thought it was great fun to say “99!” “521!” in the middle of her jumping which then made her cry hysterically because she had to start all over thanks to my distraction.
You know, older sister stuff.
Molly ended up eating a lot of baked shrimp, and baked chicken breast, and really not much at all, really. She lost a lot of hair, and clearly a lot of weight, and the fleshy, wise-cracking Molly disappeared for awhile.
She ended up seeing a therapist regularly for awhile for anorexia, but recovered slowly. Mom bought her a golden retriever—the smartest dog we’ve ever had, Dublin, because animals always take Molly to a different and a better realm.
Even though Molly and I went through emotionally tough places when we were younger, it was Molly’s judgment that I trusted so implicitly that lead me to my first boyfriend, Sean—the virginity stealer.
To preface: Molly, I am sorry for being an unholy bitch about this situation.
To annotate: Molly had a massive crush on Sean; I barely knew him the year that I was at Seton, a Catholic high school. Molly admired him from afar and boy did I have a grandiose plan: I had an idea to find the Seton address and phone directory (for carpool purposes only) and discovered where Sean lived. (Yes, I realize how creepy this sounds.)
From there, we could MapQuest his house, walk to Safeway, buy cheap candy, and pretend to sell the products for a good cause… Girl Scouts or something. No. Church.
But hey, I thought, it would be casual. It would be love. I’d knock on his door beginning my pitch towards goodwill and then say, “Sean? Sean, is that you? My, what are the chances I’d knock on your door selling candy where the proceeds go toward charity, and slyly slip in how wonderful my younger sister is. Hey, doesn’t she go to your school?”
Here’s the thing, I trusted Molly’s judgment in guys and therefore had a crush on Sean. I manipulated the situation and instead it turned into: “Sean? Sean, is that you?” And then I subtly told him how wonderful I was.
Molly’s karma took charge, and I eventually dated him on and off for seven long, dramatic, childish years which in turn made me realize thePride and Prejudice, classic Jane Austen version of love which I now have with my patient husband.
Back to the rough side of our long-developed friendship: Molly once came in the middle of the night when I was secretly talking on the phone to Sean in my room and dumped a glass of water on my head in her sweet, wet revenge. I screamed. The entire house woke up. Molly was enraged, and we didn’t talk for months.
Today, we can’t help but laugh about how ludicrous it. And then we hope not to have children like us… Yet, we secretly do.
A few years ago, Molly and I read an article about the Olsen twins. Anytime these two best friends and sisters get overwhelmed in public, you will see them holding hands. Apparently, one will squeeze three times and the other one will squeeze four to let each other know that it’s alright.
I love you. Three words. One, two, three.
I love you, too. Four words. One, two, three, four.
We’ve adopted this act of love for any of life’s overwhelming moments to affirm our lifelong sisterly solidarity.
In this story, through the countless experiences we’ve had, I’ve chosen to write about the catty, childish ones that seemed so deep at the time; and touching lightly upon the ones that deeply affected us for the long haul. Because Molly epitomizes who a best friend should be: We’ve both learned what true friendship is by learning about our unique emotional boundaries, stark personality differences, and respect of one another as we’ve grown from children to adults.
And I’m sure we’ll learn more along the way as we grow older together, laughing about the cattiness, the little things our mom says, the memories of our brother, how proud we are of my daughters—all female presidents—while I beat her in gin rummy as we share a bottle of cranapple juice.