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My Big Sister, My Role Model

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I always emulated her: from choices in men (she favored creative types: photographers, filmmakers and writers for her; writers and musicians for me), personal style (though my Afro was never a big as hers), taste in music, career choices.

Ever since I can remember, my big sister Barbara has been my heroine, my role model and, when needed, my substitute mother. She's beautiful, sweet, intelligent, funny and loving. Whatever she did I wanted to do, and consciously or not I emulated her: from choices in men (she favored creative types: photographers, filmmakers and writers for her; writers and musicians for me), personal style (though my Afro was never a big as hers), taste in music and even career choices.

Growing up with a professional opera singer for a mother, we were expected to be trailblazers and set the standard for the next generation. By her thirty-fifth birthday, Barbara had just about done it all; she graduated from college, had a series of prestigious jobs in public television and as a radio executive (including a position at National Public Radio). Her only so-called "flaw" was a divorce and even afterwards she delved into Superwoman mode, a sweet-natured, precocious and well-adjusted son in tow.

When her career reached its apex, she dated creative, successful, handsome high-powered and high profile brothers. She was what I thought was the epitome of success at that time: a Buppie. A New Age twist on a Buppie perhaps: she was kindhearted, generous, wasn't a consumerist, hedonist or an emotional graveyard. She looked out for other brothers and sisters who were less fortunate, reached back and brought them with her, including me. In my twentysomething eye...

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...ollowing in my sister's footsteps, I began learning from her experiences. We tread lightly around the subject of the religion these days. Thankfully, there are no wild debates at the dinner table on holidays. We respect one another's beliefs and agree to disagree about them. She often tells me, "You should come to my church!" when I call her seeking sisterly advice or needing a sympathetic ear. I have attended her church and admire how she's strengthened her parish and community. That's more inspirational to me than any Sunday sermon - as she is one who sincerely lives in the word, even when it's difficult for her.

She's still my heroine and more evolved than I would be in her position: She has no bitterness towards the Missouri Synod, which still does not ordain women. Even now, at 39, I'm still learning from her. She's still my role model.
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