Even into our thirties, I am my sister’s keeper.
It’s probably worse now that I’m a mom myself. Growing up, I remember feeling protective of Katie, three years my junior — to the point that our mom dubbed me “little mother.” That was mostly in the context of scolding and tattling (I’m talented at both, it turns out), but I always felt compelled to look out for her around school.
I probably had my first major “mama bear” moment when she was 11 or 12. For someone with a lifelong phone phobia (texting was invented for me personally), I managed to call up a kid that was bothering Katie. A classmate had taken to ringing the house and hanging up, so I did a little reverse phone lookup and dialed him back.
What did I say? I have no idea. I’m guessing it was something cliched like, “If you mess with my sister, you mess with me.” What I would have actually done if he had messed with me is . . . hard to say. I mean, I fight with words. But I know how I felt in that moment: I’d defended my kid sister like any good movie heroine, and she could count on me.
That was a role I’ve tried to play throughout our lives. Through high school, driving us to school during my senior and her freshman year; through college, as she came up behind me at the University of Maryland. Katie has forged her own path distinctive from mine, but I’ve been running alongside for the journey.
Now married and a working mom herself, Kate doesn’t need me to hover around her . . . but that doesn’t stop me from trying. The same protectiveness that made me help Kate find her locker and rehearse her lines for the school play was on display again Sunday night when our favorite band came back to town.
For those who have been playing along for a while, you might remember last year’s snowed-in adventure involving Hanson, a freak snowstorm and a collapsing tent. The ribbing started as soon as Hanson announced their return on a holiday tour . . . mostly good-natured jokes from our husbands, who held down the fort during our unexpected overnight in Williamsburg. And my coworkers, who received the call that I was stranded. And Katie’s coworkers, receiving the same call.
As a woman who falls asleep on the couch at 8:30 p.m., snoring loud enough to be startled awake by my children’s giggling, that was . . . a memorable evening. So memorable that, waiting in the freezing cold to get into the Fillmore in Silver Spring, our pocket of general-admission folks were all discussing it on Sunday. Because we were all there . . . like all the shows before it.
Hanson fans are intense — and intensely loyal, friends. Don’t underestimate it.
I’m pleased to report that Katie and I did not get stranded in a life-threatening situation this time around. I did go all mother-hen on her, though, as I prepared for the event. My sister is halfway through her second pregnancy, and I know how bad I felt while expecting — which was definitely too gross to stand for hours at a loud concert. We were both fighting colds, and I was worried Katie would start feeling sick without much to eat in the crowded venue.
Was Katie worried? Not really. But “little mother” was right there, encouraging her to snack and sip water. I poured contraband peanut M&Ms into her hand during “Merry Christmas Baby,” then kept an appraising eye on her throughout “MMMBop,” “Run Run Rudolph” and “Lost Without Each Other.”
We were both running out of steam by the encore. I hit 12,000 steps dancing like a lemur let out of the zoo. As a mom who spent the previous 24 hours in yoga pants cleaning up after a stomach virus took both kids down, I definitely was like an animal let out of the zoo. I shouted and sang and acted like I was 12 again . . . which felt good. Amazing, even.
I love that my sister and I share this lifelong Hanson bond. I also love that we didn’t get stuck out-of-state with ankle-deep slush turning our toes into ice cubes. Home at midnight, Katie still had to drive back to her house . . . and then we both conked out only to drag ourselves into the Monday morning routine a few cruel hours later.
My final act as little mother last weekend? Texting Katie at 12:30 to make sure she got home. She did. And still made it to work by 6:30 the next morning . . . with an hour-plus drive.
She’s a strong one.
But here’s hoping the next concert is on a Saturday.