My big sister Sandra Pinter turns 40 in just a few short days. Since my family made the great leap of faith to move from the east coast to the Chicago area three years ago to be nearer to her and her family, she has become, as my kids would say, “my BFF.”
Our kids are little stairsteps in ages–8, 7, 6, 5–and quite the little gaggle. My brother-in-law Bill watches them all after school, and “the cousins,” as they refer to each other, fight like siblings but still run into each other’s arms after an overnight separation so that a stranger would think it had been months since they’d set eyes on each other. They have not yet tired of cooing over our littlest, baby Willa, who turns 1 next week.
My parents moved up to the neighborhood in the last 18 months as well, and having our family nearby means that we have lots of joint family dinners, afternoons together at the pool, library outings and trips to see the $1 kids’ movies on Wednesday mornings in the summer. When I talk about how wonderful the move to Chicago was, I am talking a lot about how amazing Sandra and her family have been. I can’t imagine how much poorer our life would have been without her, her husband and kids, and my parents so closely entwined in our lives over the last few years.
Last year at this time, Sandra looked ahead at the big 4-0 coming up and decided she wasn’t going to hang her head and slink into “middle age” with despair. Instead, she decided that she wanted to lose some extra weight that had crept on during those baby years, get in shape and accomplish something big–all by the time she turned 40.
I’m so proud to say that she has reached all of those goals. Sandra and Bill both have been very successful on the Weight Watchers program, which takes real commitment week after week. And this weekend, after 6 months of training, she and my mom have walked 60 miles in 3 days as part of the Susan G Komen 3-day walk. In case you are bad at math, that’s almost a full marathon every day for three days in a row. And this year, it rained. It is an unbelievable amount of hard work and dedication to prepare and then successfully execute that kind of distance. My hat is off to all the 2,400 walkers who participated, and all those who participate in other races around the country.
But I also want to say a huge “Thank You” to our adopted hometown, Mount Prospect, IL. The 2,400 walkers came through Mount Prospect starting at about 8am Saturday morning. And they could immediately tell they were in the town named by Business Week as “The Best Place in the U.S. to Raise Kids.” As soon as they passed the village boundary line, they were greeted with fresh fruit, drinks and offers to use a clean, indoor toilet with running water, the first they had seen in two days.
Along the route through town, they ran into police officers and firefighters dressed in pink cheering them on. Families and businesses really threw out the pink carpet–the golf course literally spray-painted the sidewalk pink. Some neighbors handed them pink beads to wear while they walked, others continued to offer snacks or clean, indoor bathrooms, or just cheers and encouragement. By the time they arrived where our friends and family were waiting to cheer them on at the Melas Park entrance, walkers were buoyed by the outpouring of support from Mount Prospect residents. When Sandra and my mom told us how fantastic the people of Mount Prospect had been, I felt such a rush of gratitude for everyone who helped make the experience special and fun for all of them.
We were waiting there with the whole gang out to cheer them on, having made neon pink and white signs saying “Happy Birthday Sandra!” “Great Job!” and “We’re so PROUD of Team Nip Nip Hooray!” The kids wore beads and pink outfits, and we spray-painted their hair bright pink. Some of our friends from St. Raymond were there with their own kids to cheer everyone on, and my heartfelt thanks go out to the Langes, the Ankony’s, the Sandberg’s and the Rolf’s. All those little girls spontaneously started picking flowers from the field and handing them to passing walkers, in some cases bringing them to tears with their innocent offering.
As we clapped and cheered for each walker who passed our group, many said “Thank you so much, thank you for coming out.” In the short seconds it took for those women (and men) to pass us by, I didn’t have the time or words to respond, but if I had, I would have said something like this.
Thank YOU. Thank you for committing, for working hard to accomplish something, for dedicating yourselves to something bigger. Thank you for inspiring us and for showing our daughters the depths of love between mothers and daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins and friends. You are all a living testament that this is what we do for each other. This is what we’ll do for you, if you ever need us. We’ll be there, we’ll fight for you, we’ll fight beside you. We won’t ever give up on you. And if we suffer because of your suffering, we’ll even work so that others need not suffer as we have, in honor of you. Today you are reminding us of what sisterhood is about, and I’m so proud to be your sister.
Maybe all that was communicated in our cheering and clapping and just being there. I hope at least a little of it was.
Especially I hope some of it was communicated to my sister, who I am so proud of and continue to look up to. What a gift to find a best friend right there in your own family. Someone who gets you, who knows where you came from and where you’re trying to go. Who had the same parents and same upbringing (although she’ll swear I had it so much easier) so she understands the origins of your particular brand of crazy. Who actually remembers the details of your trials and travails from one week to the next, and whose own trials you care deeply about. I am deeply grateful to have such a person in my life.
The birthday is yours, my darling sister, but the gift is mine. I love you!