The Color of Your Collar


I love my sister. I love writing about my sister. She’s an amazing woman, mother and wife. A brilliant legal mind, a marathon runner, a strict vegan and the occasional background vocal to my lead on a James Taylor cover around the campfire – she is a force to be reckoned with. But my, oh my, that woman does NOT know how to use tools of any kind. Not a one. I don’t even like the thought of her using a corkscrew.

The tale of when she invited me for Thanksgiving – and, as a sidebar, asked me if I would be so kind as to bring along some basic hand tools to build my nephew a playhouse – has been told and retold for over a decade. I’ll keep this short by simply recounting the trip I made to Home Depot to buy a nail gun, chop saw, compressor, hoses, a grip of blades and a table saw after she mentioned that the lumber drop was scheduled for Wednesday morning.


I love my sister. I love building operable custom windows for a six-year-old. I do these things for her without question because she is my sister, and that’s what sisters do.

Most recently, she sent me a photograph of her hand, which she had clobbered – twice – with a sledgehammer while attempting to remove a rotted piece of wood out of a concrete fencepost footing. She had tried virtually everything she could think of to get that damn wood out, but nothing worked. And now, alas, she had a fractured hand. I refrained from openly mocking her – even though she deserved it, and even though that’s often what sisters do. Instead, I gently suggested soaking the wood in a wee bit of gasoline and lighting a match. I also suggested that she task my father with this chore, lest she burn down the back forty.

“Lo and behold, not only did your idea work, it was great family fun!” came the report. “I now have so much more respect for the hard labor that you do.”

I believe she meant that manual labor is not only hard, but that it also requires careful and practiced thought. Not that I am in prison.

By virtue of career path, my sister wears tailored suits, nylons and heels to work. She carries both a briefcase and purse made of the finest Italian leather. She drives a Mercedes. Her hair is perfect. In my movie, she wears thoughtfully chosen lipstick, a subtle spray of perfume, and a violin concerto whispers through the air while she rides a sparkling glass elevator to her penthouse office, where she is, of course, greeted with creamy espresso and Danish-du-jour.

Some of that is true.

I, on the other hand, am a hot mess of tangled hair pulled into a hairclip bought on sale at CVS, paint-stained shirts and ripped jeans. My boots are heavy and the arches are rolled toward the outside from climbing and straddling ladders. I drive a 22-foot, long-bed, crew-cab pickup truck. I carry a tape measure and a travel mug of lukewarm Lipton tea. I don’t wear makeup and I smell like the power tools and heavy machinery that pierce and sing through the air around me. I haven’t had breakfast in over 15 years.

All of that is true.

While we have chosen drastically different career paths post-college, the place where my sister and I still intersect is on a virtual Scrabble board – the white-collared attorney vs. the blue-collared contractor. My IQ is higher than hers by 2 points, which troubles her to no end and remains nearly impossible for her to admit without beading up in cold sweat. But in the middle of the night when we’re both struck up by insomnia, sitting about in footy-pajamas eating cold leftovers on opposite coasts, this is a place for us to meet on equal ground, to catch up, slow down, tune in, and have a laugh at the words we lay before one another, as much as at the secrets we share between us.

I beat her 99.99% of the time, but once in a while, I let her win. Because we’re sisters, and that’s what sisters do.