To my super cool big sister on her 50th birthday

February 15, 2012|Bill Kohler
  • The chubby column writer and his super-cool big sister, Jennifer, at Easter 1967.
Submitted photo

Dear Jennifer:

Hard to believe you are turning 50 today.

Hard to believe we can be as old as we are.

But here’s something that’s not hard to believe: You are the coolest big sister a guy could ever have.

The story of Jennifer Kohler Fridinger Warner begins in 1962. You had it made: Only child, doting parents, and a couple of aunts to spoil you rotten and take you places.

Then along came your worst nightmare: Brothers! Three mouthy, noisy, smelly, attention-stealing boys invaded your life within the span of 11 months.

You must have been mortified.

But you never showed it. I’ve been told you catered to my every need when I was little. I would grunt and point, and you would get me a drink, a cookie, my blanket, whatever.

Even back then, you were gracious, sharing, accommodating and helpful.

Even as a little kid, you displayed the best traits of your parents: Kind, giving, understanding.

As we grew up, you didn’t ignore me like most big sisters do. Even though I was annoying and probably still smelly, you treated me and Brad and Jim (the twins who followed me by 11 months) with respect and actually talked to us — even when your super-cool friends like Judy, Nicole, Carol, Laura and Gina were at the house.

One great thing I remember was when you gave me permission (you did give me permission, didn’t you?) to listen to your albums when you weren’t around the house.

Wow, what a musical education: Albums by Hall and Oates and David Alan Coe, Billy Joel’s “The Stranger,” James Taylor’s “JT,” Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive,” Elton John’s “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

Later, when you got married and moved out, you let me borrow your Beetle (sorry about the wreck in Stapleford’s driveway, BTW), and you and your husband opened the doors to me and my friends when we needed a place to hang out. You even threw me one of the best parties ever before I moved away after college. (Wasn’t that the one where I got the magic-marker treatment?)

You shared your children with your brothers. Sean was one of the coolest kids ever. Allyson always had something funny to say and was one of the most honest kids I had ever been around. Being their uncle was one of the great joys of my early years.

After I became a high school and college kid, you covered for me (and my brothers) when we got in trouble. You always knew what to say to get us off the hook with Mom and Dad. Maybe that was because you paved the way for us when you were a teenager (like big sisters and big brothers are supposed to do), and you knew what (not) to say most of the time.

When I moved away, you (along with our parents) kept me informed of family happenings before the age of email, texts and unlimited plans. You organized family gatherings, birthday parties, breakfasts at the Parlor House and whatever else needed to get done.

You buried a husband, raised two kids on your own for a while and still put others first. You later mourned one stepson and took in another. You never lashed out, you never lost faith, you always soldiered on no matter the mess around your feet or the hurdles in your path. You were composed, strong and resilient.

Later, when our father was fighting a battle with leukemia, you sacrificed your time with family and took days off from work to help take care of him and get him where he needed to go.

You never thought much of it. You just did what you had to do, and went where you needed to be. Again, you helped the rest of us see how to handle things — in good times and bad. That’s what big sisters and big brothers are supposed to do.

You do the same now with our mother, our aunt, your nieces and nephews, and your friends.

As you hit this milestone birthday, you should be proud. Like I’ve said before, you are way cooler than most people half your age. That’s the finest compliment I can give a person.

I’m convinced that when people have nothing but nice things to say about a person, that qualifies that person as a success. You are a success.

No one is perfect (even me), but you embody so many deep, good qualities that we all could take a chapter from your book. You treat strangers as friends, you help people feel at ease, you can strike up a conversation with even the most taciturn person.

Even though we pick on you like brothers do, we love and admire you. You are the glue that keeps a family together. Every boy needs a big sister as cool as you. Thanks, and happy 50th!


Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at Receive Tri-State news updates on Twitter at @HMinPA and @HMinWV.

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