My oldest sister's wedding day. (Photo courtesy of Roanne Lee)

Creative Writing

Column: My sushi rollers

The unconditional love sisters have for each other prevails no matter how far apart in distance they go.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/roannejlee/" target="_self">Roanne Lee</a>

Roanne Lee

January 18, 2023
I became a human sushi roll wrapped up in a blanket. My sisters sat on top of me as we all giggled through the night. The fondest memories of my childhood always included my two sisters who were undeniably my best friends.  

My sisters always played around with me, whether it was scaring me with horror stories or tickling me to the point where I couldn’t catch my breath. Growing up, one of our favorite routines was to go to Ralph’s late at night. Driving through the pitch dark night, we sang in the car and once we got there, we skipped through the aisles and grabbed as many snacks as we were craving. I remember dancing in the snack aisle, and my sisters would take out their phones and start filming me, always cracking up at my silly dances and chic expressions. 

During the holidays or our parents’ birthdays, we all woke up early in the morning, secretly tiptoeing out of our rooms to go buy flowers, and cook a fancy three-course meal for them. One time, on Mother’s Day, my oldest sister decided to cook steak. Although she was a clumsy cook, she reassured us that she could make a good steak this time, but she inevitably burnt one whole side of the steak. This was such an expected result that all three of us started cracking up until our stomach and cheeks started to ache. We were used to eating burned food so this was not a surprise at all, but at least it was a little more edible than we thought. 

These funny moments may be typical family experiences, but the irony is that my sisters and I have an 11- and 15-year age gap. Yet, the three of us were like the three musketeers. We were always glued together, and there was never a dull moment. I don’t remember a single day without laughter filling up our house. 

Undeniably, my sisters are my best friends, but they are also my parents. When I did something unmannerly or rude, my sisters were always the ones who scolded me. They would call me by my name and tell me to sit in front of them. Speaking in a calm yet stern voice, they told me to look them in the eyes and taught me my wrongdoings. They made sure that I learned my lessons, not just what I did wrong but how my actions impacted others. 

At times, they were scary and harsh, but now that I am older, I understand that their scoldings were words of wisdom. I knew they meant well and their lessons were out of love because they always wanted the best for me. Through my tears, they gave me a tight hug at the end and always made me laugh to break the ice. As a result, I never held a grudge against them and was able to learn what was right from wrong.

Other times, my sisters are my guardians. Whenever I told them my worries, whether it was about school or relationships with friends, their arms were always ready to embrace me. When I cried, they always cried with me, and with a warm hug, they reassured me that everything was going to be okay. I always felt consoled by their presence and felt more comfortable talking to them about my thoughts instead of my parents because they were able to relate to me on a deeper level. 

In many ways, my sisters were my world and my rock. However, inevitably, time passed and as I grew older, my sisters reached the age where they were ready to become independent. Eventually, my oldest sister found someone to spend the rest of her life with. 

Two years ago, I met my brother-in-law for the first time. More than excitement, I was filled with worry as my sister hasn’t had the best relationship history. I was even more skeptical about my brother-in-law after hearing that he wanted to marry her after only four months of dating. I was concerned that he was meeting my sister only because he wanted to find someone to marry. Filled with these concerns, I nervously went to meet my brother-in-law.  

My first impression of him was that he was extremely tall. As soon as we met, he tapped on my shoulder and gave me a funny smile, which I thought was the strangest introduction. I remember thinking that my sister was meeting a weird guy. Regardless, we went to the Han River in Korea to bike, and because I didn’t know how to bike at the time, my brother-in-law patiently taught me how to step-by-step. He held onto the back of the rented bike and assured me that he will make sure I wouldn’t fall. His teachings allowed me to trust him and as a result, I quickly learned how to bike. The three of us had a great time biking together and sharing memories next to the beautiful scenery.

Soon after, we went on a little food tour and visited food trucks. Grabbing the delicious food that he paid for, he turned on some music for us, and we all started to eat a feast under the warm sunshine. I was very shy at first, but my brother-in-law always started our conversations and made sure I felt comfortable. He asked me questions to get to know me more, told quirky jokes, and I was able to open up to him rather quickly. I was surprised at how much I liked him despite my initial worries. Behind his actions, I could tell he was thoughtful and caring toward me because he knew how much I meant to my sister. I began to admire him as much as she did. 

Throughout the day, I also saw how much he cared for and loved my sister. His little actions and sayings were filled with love. When my sister had digestion problems, as she commonly did, he didn’t hesitate to rush to the convenience store and get her medicine. Whenever my sister was feeling tired, he carried her belongings. His choice of words was always kind and respectful. Even though he joked around a lot, his jokes were never rude or inappropriate. It always made her laugh and watching her being so happy made me smile even more.

Through observing their relationship, I also learned the important qualities and values that I want to find in my future partner. At the end of the day, I was extremely delighted for my sister to have met my brother-in-law and knew he was the perfect one to take care of my sister and keep her happy, as much as she deserved to be. 

On my oldest sister’s wedding day, I felt a whole spectrum of emotions. On one hand, I felt lonely and upset that she was leaving me for good. She was entering a new family that I wasn’t a part of, and it felt strange that she would no longer be a part of our family unit. On the other hand, watching her look so lovely and mature, I felt proud and joyful for her new life ahead. With all these emotions flooding inside me all at once, watching my sister walk down the aisle, my tears rolled down uncontrollably. Now my sister happily lives in Korea, oceans away, with my brother-in-law. 

As for my second sister, she decided to move to San Francisco and go deeper into her studies by pursuing law. The night before she left for San Francisco, I laid in bed and suddenly all of our memories together rushed through my head. Silently, tears rolled down my cheeks thinking we would never share these moments together again. Even before she left, I cried because I already missed her. ‘What would I do without her? The house is going to feel so empty.’ I already felt loneliness creep in.

I remember the day my family all went to San Francisco together to help her move. In the morning, as my sister was packing up her things, I saw the room slowly emptying. The boxes that held all my sister’s belongings were carried out to the car one by one. I looked around the room that once had both my sister’s and my stuff in it. Now, the room was almost empty with only my belongings in it, and I felt bittersweet. For the first time, I was going to have my own room, but at that moment, I was not sure if I even wanted a big room for myself. 

My family spent a few days in the city helping her settle in, and during these few days I felt reality kick in as I realized that my sister was truly going to be living in a whole different city away from me. Even though I had a lot of fun spending time with my sister in San Francisco, I also felt sad all throughout the days. I kept on thinking that these were going to be my last days with her. I knew that I would see her during breaks, but I also knew that I wouldn’t have someone to talk comfortably with, to sing with, to cry with, or to laugh with every day. These thoughts came crashing down on me. 

The day my family was heading back home without my sister, we all got to the airport, hugged one another, and said our goodbyes. While encouraging her, I felt tears about to come out but I tried hard to keep them back because I wanted to appear strong and positive so that my sister wouldn’t feel sad on her ride back alone to her new home. More than anything, although I miss my sister dearly and hope I could keep her by my side for as long as I wish, I am proud of her hard work and will always be her biggest cheerleader in the next chapter of her life. 

All these years, I knew that my sisters were important to me but I didn’t know the magnitude of my love for them until they left my side. I felt alone, even abandoned as if a part of my identity parted with them. Now, all of us live in separate parts of the world. Whenever I want to talk to them, I am often hesitant to do so because I feel like I’m bothering them. Although I know that I’m important to my sisters, I also know that now they have their own lives to focus on. 

But deep in my heart, regardless of distance and the business of our lives, without a doubt, I know that our sisterly love abounds in what words cannot describe. They were and still remain the biggest gift in my life, and I feel blessed to share this life with people who love me and whom I love unconditionally. My two older sisters taught me what matters most in life: family, laughter, sacrifice, and most importantly, love.

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