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The Greatest Smile

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It has been said that the greatest smile belongs to Mona Lisa, but I believe it’s my sister’s. Her smile is not particularly dazzling or even out of this world, but it’s the one thing I can always count on. It is her smile that has been a constant through my thirteen turbulent years. The road Kenenni and I have traveled hasn’t always been easy one, it had pot holes, cracks and loose rubble, but somehow we’ve managed to overcome it all; each and every challenge.

Growing up I didn’t have many friends and none that were close. For some reason I disliked everyone around me and chose to keep the world an arm’s length away. Kenenni was the exception. We fought like two hungry hyenas, scratching, biting and pulling hair. To this day not much has changed, apart from we don’t fight as much physically. We argued over trivial matters such as who got to sit in the front seat or who got to hold the TV remote while watching a show. Most of the time we didn’t even remember why we were fighting, but just that we were angry at one another for reasons that had escaped the mind long ago. Yet after every fight we always make up, the serious and the silly ones. There were times when I doubted if we ever would, our fights lasting days on end. I’d think, “Can she really forgive me after all those horrible things I said? After what I did?” or “Can I really forgive her after all those horrible things she said? After what she did?” but we always make up, our bond becoming stronger than ever before.

As long as I can remember Kenenni has been there for me through thick and thin. She was by my side when the road was smooth and well-traveled and she stayed there when it got rough and bumpy. In every part, we always smiled, not necessarily a happy one though. When we stood in the doorway of our grandmother’s thatched hut, leaning against the hard mud walls, crying as the men carrying our Dad’s casket progressed further down the red dirt path. Away from all we’ve ever known. My sister leaned over and squeezed my hand, giving me a strained smile through her veil of tears that said, “We’re going to be ok”. I didn’t believe it then, but I do now.

The one she gave me as we got off the plane for the first time in Bozeman, Montana was different than the one at Dad’s funeral. This one was a smile of wonder, of apprehension and excitement of new beginnings. We sat all four of us (Kenenni, Brady, Tanner and me) crammed in the back seat of our new Dad’s truck, mom in the front with Dad. The world was shrouded with blackness only night could bring and the moon lay hidden behind wispy clouds. At one in the morning I knew I should have felt tired, but all I felt was an eagerness that was teeming to overflow and a curiosity that could not be contained. I tried to peer outside the tinted windows, hoping to discern anything out of the blurring shadows, wanting at least a glimpse of what would be our new home. No such luck. That night Kenenni and I wore the same smile and as we went to bed for the first time in our new room, new house, new city, new country, with a family that we had just met. I knew she felt the same way I did; wonder, apprehension, excitement and nostalgia.

My sister has many smiles and each one is significantly different from the other and all of them tell a story. There were ones of mischievousness as she poured lemonade down my back or locked me out of the house or turned off the lights in the basement and yelled that Voldemort was going to come and get me (back then he was my biggest fear). But there were also ones of reassurance as she told me I could do it when we went downhill skiing for the first time or when I found myself giving up in a race or when I was just doubting myself in everyday life and in many others instances. We were each other’s cheer squad (these days I have more people rooting for me though) and she was my biggest fan and vice versa.

Looking back, as kids Kenenni and I used to hold hands and hug each other, but as we grew up and grew closer we rarely hugged one another, in fact I don’t think we ever do. We don’t tell each other I love you or hug it out when things get rough or one of us is sad. The only time we do that is to make the other laugh or to just plain annoy one another. When I tell my friends that my sister and I are really close, there first reply is always, “That’s not true. You guys always fight a lot.” What they don’t seem to understand is that that is our way of getting along. Most of the time, the words of unkindness we voice, we don’t really mean. Action speaks louder than words. That is something I have come to recognize with my sister. It’s the little things she does to show me she cares. When I have a lot of homework she might make my lunch or breakfast for me. When I’m upset she tries to make me laugh and pesters me until I open up about the problem. So ask me on a good day when the relationship between my sister and I is as calm as the Pacific Ocean or ask me on a bad day when the relationship between my sister and I is as stormy and tempestuous as the Atlantic and I will always say that the greatest smile belongs to my sister. While Da Vinci may have painted a masterpiece, I think my sister’s is still better!



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