My sister, Marley, is visiting me right now. We've always been close, but having her around is great for a lot of reasons. Marley is three years younger than me. In some ways I have I retained — even as an adult — my older-sister privileges. I usually get to choose what we watch on TV, I try to give her my old clothes (even though she has long since surpassed me in height), and I still feel guilty about the time I called her sweater a "grandma sweater," because it turned out to be one of her favorites.
But in most ways, Marley is the wiser, more mature sister. She thinks through decisions carefully, eats healthfully and always reminds me to recycle. She's also much cleaner and better organized than I am.
Within the first couple of days of Marley arriving in Ashland, she greeted me excitedly as I was leaving work.
"I have a surprise for you! But don't worry. If you hate it, I saved all the receipts."
Of course she saved all the receipts. That's the kind of thing Marley would think of. I always lose receipts or forget to wait for the cashier to give them to me in the first place.
Marley had cleaned and organized my bathroom. She not only scrubbed the tub, cleaned the sink and washed the bath mat, she tackled the scary, overflowing countertop, as well. She bought organizing drawers and caddies for my makeup and hair serums, and even replaced the mountain of bobby pins back onto their little cardboard home.
My bathroom looked amazing. I just want to sit in it all the time. In fact, I'm eagerly awaiting the next time I have the stomach flu, just so I have an excuse to stare into the pristine depths of my toilet. Marley's labor came at a price, though. Although I offered to buy her new slippers, take her out to dinner or pay for a day at the spa, she only had one demand: I am not allowed to buy any more makeup.
Apparently Marley believes I have enough makeup to supply the Miss America contest for years to come. I disagree. Some people, such as my sister, are naturally beautiful and have interesting, healthful hobbies such as bike riding and bathroom organization. I, on the other hand, was born with a rather plain face and too much free time to watch YouTube videos of makeup tips. And then I, of course, am forced to try them on myself. I admit that the green eye shadow probably was a mistake. In fact, at my beginner level of makeup expertise, probably any eye shadow is a mistake.
Later in the week Marley decided to clean and organize my kitchen. This included the refrigerator, the cabinets and that scary, scary place on top of the refrigerator. This cleaning frenzy resulted in more demands from my sister. I am now no longer allowed to buy cereal, yogurt or jam. I tried to explain to Marley that it's hard to shop for one adult and one occasionally finicky 8-year-old, but she wasn't buying my excuses.
As I write this, Marley is downstairs taking apart my vacuum cleaner and cleaning out all its inner parts. Honestly, the idea of cleaning my vacuum is something that had never occurred to me. I clean with my vacuum cleaner; I shouldn't have to clean it, right? That would be like occasionally taking out my bleach and giving it a good rinse.
Marley, though, is wiser in the ways of the vacuum and is proudly showing me the newly cleaned filter and the amount of lint she found inside the vacuum tubes. She plans to re-vacuum my entire house when she finishes.
"Who knows how long it's been since you really vacuumed?" she told me.
Marley is the best guest a person could ever ask for. I have tried to convince her that I will move to a bigger house if she will just promise to stay with me forever and ever, but she's not really going for it. I have no idea why.
Zoe Abel is watching Marley clean and wondering what stroke of fate made her the older sister. You can contact her at email@example.com.