It’s two a.m., and none of us should be awake. We are four girls, giggling like junior high tweens at a slumber party. We just put on chilled, glittering face masks. Our faces glisten. We squeeze all four of us onto one queen size bed to take a selfie. Granny is asleep in the primary bedroom, just feet away. We hope we don’t wake her.
We show off prom pictures and swap embarrassing high school and college stories. I’m transported to junior high and high school sleepovers with friends, staying up all night. When was my last girls-only sleepover? A decade ago?
One of us yawns, and I’m taken back to this present moment. My sheet mask that claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines has dried. Hmm, maybe it worked a little? At least I’m moisturized. My feet are sore from a day in flip-flops, and the beginnings of a headache remind me that this soon-to-be thirty-two-year-old body has been kept up past its usual bedtime.
You likely already guessed, but we aren’t at a slumber party, and we aren’t teenage girls. What we are is sisters-in-law. We are on an inaugural weekend getaway with our mother-in-law, known to our kids as Granny. I know it is uncommon for in-laws to make trips together, but I have been dreaming of this getaway for months. We had a blast planning it together, and living it out has been all I hoped for.
My sisters-in-law are the sisters I never knew I needed. We weren’t always close, but time, overcoming battles and health obstacles, working through conflict, loving each other’s babies as we love our own, and celebrating our wins, individual or collective, have brought us together.
Our childhoods, careers, and parenting styles differ in many ways, yet we are a family. As the first to enter motherhood of the four of us, I had no idea what I was doing. I often felt unsure. Misunderstandings happened, and I often didn’t know how to navigate this new space and new family simultaneously. Tears were shed, and grace was given, grace that was so needed. In a few weeks, three of us four will be mothers.
I can’t pinpoint a single moment when each felt like a sister, as sometimes it just slowly crept up on me. But, one memory does stand out. We were all together for a family weekend at a farm, and I will never forget what my sister-in-law did. It was late morning on the day of departure. My son, Blake, was a few months old and life was a sleep-deprived haze. Everyone was closing up the house to leave, shutting blinds, loading the dishwasher and washing machine, but I sat in bed immobile. I felt like a waste of space as all I could do was lay there in the dark, holding Blake. He had come down with a horrible sinus infection the day we arrived. Why are kids always sick at the worst times? We had fun during the day, but those nights were killer. On this last morning, I just couldn’t muster enough energy or strength to get out of bed.
As I lay in the dark, trying to will myself to put one foot in front of the other, I heard a knock. I pictured either my husband, Josh coming to beg me to get up or perhaps another sibling-in-law checking in on us. I opened the door to see my sister-in-law with a cup of coffee and creamer. This sister-in-law never drinks coffee. “Hey, I thought you might need this,” she said and passed me the coffee. As she shut the door, I realized something. I loved her. She knew me, saw me, and cared. That cup of coffee was the difference between isolation and hope and literally the fuel I needed to stand up and face the day.
This letter is for my sisters-in-law, the sisters I never knew I needed. The ones who help me grow, show me kindness when I’m overly blunt or extremely sensitive, laugh beneath our glittering face masks with me, forgive me when I mess up, pray for my family and me, hold my son when he cries, and walk beside me. I’m so blessed that you are in my life. I can’t wait for another girl’s trip.