If I'd understood the term soul mate as a kid, I would've said mine was my sister, Colaine. As children, we'd spoon in bed, fall asleep together, even hold hands in school. She was three years younger and so sweet—when I went to camp, she'd send me letters where she'd just write "I love you" a thousand times on a card. Because that's all she wanted to say. We were young when my parents had a traumatic divorce, and my mother wasn't a touchy-feely person. We needed that security and affection, so we got it from each other.

When high school started, I became obsessed with boys; in a way, I transferred my love from Colaine to them. I went off to college and soon was consumed with finding myself and building my career. And she wasn't part of any of it. We'd lost that indelible bond. Then The Incident happened.

We had grown up with beautiful holiday decorations handmade by our grandmother: three five-foot-long fabric scrolls (one for each of us children), covered in felt, sequins, and little Christmas trees, with a bell at the bottom. When we were young, my mother hung the scrolls in our house each year; when we grew up, she gave them to me. But Colaine wanted hers, and I didn't want to split up the set. So one day around Christmas, she and her daughters came over, and without telling me, she snuck one off the wall and took it home.

When I realized it was missing, I jumped in the car and took off, speeding the whole way. Colaine and I had barely spent quality time together in 20 years, and to her this was a shock: You're driving 45 minutes to get your damn decoration back, and you can't come visit me on a Saturday to say hi? When I arrived, I stood in the foyer, fuming, while she retrieved the scroll. We didn't raise our voices, but you don't have to be loud to be livid. From then on, we saw each other only a few times over the years—my mother's 70th birthday, holidays—and even then we barely spoke.

More than a decade passed. Then my father-in-law died, and I thought, Who do I want at my deathbed? I was wracked with guilt. So I texted Colaine and asked if we could get together. We went on a hike, which is always a great place to start because you don't have to look at each other.

Those first few months were like getting acquainted with a stranger. Our texts and emails were cordial but formal, and every interaction required so much thought. But gradually there was a thaw. Now we talk or text almost every day, laughing about in-jokes, trading memories, and bickering like sisters do. We're still completely different people: She's a Pollyanna—I think she believed in Santa until she was 20—and I can be a little crass. But we have the same sarcasm, the same obnoxious laugh. And now she's sharing everything she went through during the years we weren't close. I was so wrapped up in my life and career, and she'd needed someone to confide in. I'm glad to finally be that person. It's not always a picnic, but I know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.


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