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The oldest of 4 sisters...

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Having siblings isn't always pretty, but they're always there. For better or worse. Drunk or tattooed. Far away or together. These are my sisters and our stories are forever. Laugh with the best of them on what it means to be the oldest sister and what it takes to continue that bond into adulthood.

An Introduction to the Follis Girls...

I once carried my sister 200 yards to the house when I was 10 because she refused to wear the proper shoes while bike riding and ripped her toe off and I thought she was going to die.

I once brought my sisters to get their first tattoos on their 18th birthday- you're welcome, Mom.

I once planned a camping trip on Madeline Island for my sisters birthdays only to un-invite them because they sucked at the time of departure. Lisa and I had just as good a time without them.

I once lived with 2 of my 3 sisters my senior year of college... no one died. But Sheila did lock herself out once and ended up in the emergency room with self inflicted wounds. And bear mace might have been sprayed across the entire living room once. We also had no dishes at one point- they were all in Sheila's room.

I once lost my sister in Madison on Halloween and didn't sleep until she was found. When found she was still wearing her USA gymnast costume and was just fine. I might have a photo of her giving me the finger in a leotard and homemade metallic red, white, and blue warm-up pants.

I once fell out of a tree 3 stories and my sister was the one to wipe the blood off my nose and hand me my glasses. I was 20.

Growing up... It's amazing we have all our fingers, no really.* We were reckless in an innocent, growing up in the country, with parents who trusted you to come home before dinner playing a mile in the woods, kind of way. My sisters were fearless, I’d like to think I taught them that.

At age 4 I sat in my backyard and ate tuna sandwiches with mom and dad and talked of adventures as my dad built our playhouse. This moment never left me. I am who I am because my parents let me be anything I wanted to be... I was a doctor, an explorer, a writer, a politician, a witch and a troll, the enemy, a sister, and a friend.

I don’t remember playing with many toys but I do remember chasing my sister at a full sprint while driving a go-kart, getting stuck in tree tops, and shooting pop cans with a bebe gun. But as much as we were tomboys my mother would spend countless hours carting us to dance class and dressing us in full makeup with tap shoes and tutus and parade us, literally, through town. We did it all and my parents gave us every opportunity they could, while growing up in a rural town of population 500 (my school district is comprised of 8 towns and is the largest district in square mileage in Wisconsin). We played baseball, soccer, summer league basketball, went swimming, and drove 4-wheelers on the converted railroad trail. Summers were quintessential and our school years were filled with extra-curriculars with my parents constantly shuffling us around and somehow managing to gather a family dinner every evening.

With Wheel of Fortune playing in the background. “”Talk is cheap,” yells from the TV. Talk wasn’t cheap at the dinner table. There were four girls trying to get edgewise in and you had to be strong, witty, sarcastic, and a good story-teller to get your moment at the table. Some sisters faired well, others, as expected, fell quiet and came up with clever ways to sway the conversation their way. For example, my youngest sister, for many years went by the name, “Bob” and would slam her forehead down onto the table at random intervals to claim the attention. Bob was an ingenious solution to a problem, not only did Lisa struggle to gain her fair share of the conversation, but she also struggled to say her own name, Lisa Colleen Follis. An unfortunate name for a child with a lisp.

With four girls came… boys. Eventually. The peaceful years were the golden years, just us girls, no pre-teen hormones raging through our bodies. My sisters and I are all within 3 ½ years of each other and I still can't believe my parents are sane. How did that happen you ask? I have twin sisters, two years younger than me, and a youngest sister who was one of the best woopsie stories I’ve ever heard.** So, jokes on Dad. Even our dog was a female and our fish, we like to think, were likely female too but they were impossible to sex so we accepted them as part of our women pack. I’d like to think that even though my father landed a gaggle of women, he got the best possible outcome he could have. We’re smart, been known to turn a few heads, well-traveled, and not a bad time to hang out with. All of these great qualities were noticed at the age of 14 and my father would begin the dark age years of our adolescents. The dark ages would last for the next 10 (he might say 15) years through which my sisters and I would continue our reckless natures, while also figuring out how to be successful and mature humans.

My father is a saint for not executing my 18 year old boyfriend, or my sister for missing the dinner call 10 times because of her compromised position under her boyfriend in the basement, unable to hear my dad calling from the top of the stairs. I will say on that note, when my dad went down to get her, no one at the dinner table moved or spoke a word as we shared terrified expressions. When they came up and made it to the table, that was the night I learned what “keeping your composure” meant, because there was no way in hell I was going to be the first one to crack.

My sisters, being so close in age, came of age at nearly the same time I did. It wasn't uncommon in the Follis household to have busload of teenage boys sitting at the table, shirtless, drinking Kool-aid and eating frozen pizzas. Bless my fathers soul... As my sisters got older there came a time when the guys came over not so much to hang out with me but rather to hang out with my sisters. That sucked. Then eventually they started dating my sisters. Then it got weird. My father quickly gave up on the dating rule, that you had to be 15. Once again, the eldest sister paid the price for that one and the younger ones ran free to do what they wanted, which was dating my two best guy friends. AP Bio was fun after that. Sandwiched between those two having to reminisce at 8 in the morning about what I heard through the heating vents. I gave her the nickname "Mona" the next day at track practice.

There were many instances where my father rescued us from a handsie-pervert teenage boy. The doors were never allowed to be shut, but if you had a room in the basement that rule was broken. This was also the rise of the social media era and Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, AOL, and Hotmail messenger were all the rage. Unbeknownst to me, my dad monitored my screen-time behind my back and ended up calling out a boy in my class who was asking me super inappropriate questions about tampons. I thank my dad for that. Those boys were gross and I had no skills to handle them. This was a new age of technology- we were charting new territory and my father managed to not leave us in the woods to fend for ourselves; which was a very real threat.

“We were reckless in an innocent, growing up in the country, with parents who trusted you to come home before dinner when playing in the woods, kind of way. My sisters were fearless, I’d like to think I taught them that."

My mother, meanwhile, maintained composure and when I’d fly off the handle and call her a “bitch” for dropping me off in the 1984 Thunderbird in front of the school before my first high school football game, my dad would be the one to find me later that night and tell what a terrible thing I had done and would demand I respect her more; something all teenage girls need to be reminded of. My mother also has the patience of a saint, that is a truth. Her and my father, bless-their-hearts, have been together since 1975. My mother knows no other man, my dad- I’m not sure about, I’ve never asked that question, but I like to think of them as puritans. It’s easier that way. My mother, to this day, is someone I admire greatly for her resiliency; as a child she grew up in a pretty terrible home. She found my dad her sophomore year and never stopped loving him. She raised my sisters and I to be free-thinking, independent, sometimes reckless, but always loving women. I also thank them for all my fingers.

*Full disclosure, one of my sisters nearly sliced her finger off on a 1980s exercise bike. You know, the ones with the handlebars that you push and pull back-and-forth. I’m pretty sure it has gold and glitter handlebars. It was an amazingly dangerous piece of equipment that my father would let us play on when he was exercising in the evening before our mother came home from work. You see where this story is going don’t you… there was one sister on each pedal cycling the wheels and moving the handlebars- working together they had the bike up to an impressive speed. This is where the recklessness comes in… the other sister, with no task at hand, sticks her finger into the spokes of the front wheel and proceeds to nearly slice her pointer finger off. It was awesome to witness; being the responsible older sister, I had nothing to do with the ordeal. The blood was all over the unfinished concrete floor, my dad- currently bench pressing, flies off the bench at the notice of her screams and carries her up the narrow spiral stairs to the kitchen, where my sisters and I are all given the task of finding a splint to support her finger. Mission: Save Serena’s Finger commences and we rush into our bedrooms to find paintbrushes, pencils, popsicle sticks, barbie legs, whatever we could find. We splint the finger and put her hand on ice and he puts all of us in the 2-door, 1984 Thunderbird and off we go on a 45-minute adventure to the nearest hospital. About 15 minutes into the drive my mother passes on her way home. This is before cell phones and the communication begins with brake lights. My dad whips the car around and my mother proceeds to do the same and off they proceed with the reckless child hand off. My mother spent the rest of the night in the hospital with my sister where they miraculously sewed her finger back on. My dad spent the rest of his evening attempting to clean what looked like a massacre off his unfinished concrete basement floor. If you were to pull the tiles off our basement floor today, you'd still be able to see the aftermath.

**Lisa, the youngest, is truly a child made with love and complete accident. It begins with the vasectomy that never was. My mother was given the task of scheduling my dads appointment, unfortunately my father was also given the same task. With some confusion the Friday appointment went unscheduled and they were forced into uncharted territory with a weekend wedding to fill their time before Monday. By the time Monday came and the vasectomy procedure was done, it was already too late. The seed had been planted and Lisa was on her way to becoming my newest and last little sister. Lesson learned...schedule your own doctor’s appointments.

The College Years...

More to come on this subject but... I will say we all survived, only one of us went to jail, there were a few emergency room visits, and the cops only called my parents three times....

2016 Family Photo

Early Adulthood...

More to come but... The joke has always been, "You girls are all going to get married and start having babies at the same time, aren't you." *shrugs shoulders and puts hands up in the air*

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