I’ve always wanted to be like my sister. She was the epitome of what I wanted to be: cool, quirky, intelligent, and did what she wanted. As kids, she would invent games for us to play in our backyard, dressed up as colonial villagers or spies or movie stars. She always knew what the story should be.
I always latched on to what she watched on TV. It’s a younger sister thing: doing what your big sister does because it’s obviously cooler than whatever you’re doing. I was the queen of it.
First came the innocence of watching Full House together. Every day during our summers, we’d spend all morning in the library, biding our time until we could run the half-mile home at lunchtime to watch the Tanner clan. Then it was the 90s thrill of Boy Meets World, watching Cory and Topanga grow up from cute kids to a married couple. I remember sitting on our designated cushions of the couch and glancing over to see her laughing at whatever shenanigans were happening onscreen.
As we approached high school, we moved on to the crime shows. First it was the CSI franchises, both Miami and New York but never the original. We got thoroughly invested in the characters. We tracked weight loss (there was that terrible “chubby Ryan” phase), love interests, and who we hoped would end up together in the end. Then came Bones and the many discussions over the Booth and Brennan relationship, debating when they would finally end up together.
We fell into Fringe as a happy accident, back when it used to come on after Bones. We would rush home after dance class to shower in the twenty minutes we had before it would start, then sit there with bowls of ice cream and dripping wet hair and our glyph chart to decode the symbols that came on before each commercial break. It would turn into a competition to see who could guess what the word would be before the end of the episode. She was much better at it than I was.
Then there was the glorious discovery of the original Degrassi on Hulu. Every day we would watch a few episodes together, covering the entire junior high and high school years in one of her winter breaks from college. I would rush through my homework to make sure we would have time to watch it before I would have to go to dance class.
Late nights meant watching Friends on Nick at Nite. We had a thing for shows from the 90s. There was always something better about them, a simpler time with less technology. We are members of that weird in-between generation, the ones who grew up as it developed into what it is today. Something about that easier time of payphones and no instagram was very appealing.
The summer before I started college she started watching How I Met Your Mother. I obviously had to join in on the fun. We’d eat our dinner together and watch it on Netflix, sympathizing with the struggles that Ted faced as he searched for love. We went our separate ways to our respective colleges as the final season started. It became tradition to stay up until midnight on Monday nights when the new episode would go online, wait until we both were ready, and start the episode at the same time so we could text on commercials and discuss it as we had all summer long.
There was something about fictional people that made it easier to understand my sister. It was like a peek into her mind, an easier way to see what she liked and what she didn’t. As we grew up, we became closer, especially once we started college. But in our adolescence, TV was a simpler way for me to connect to her. They may not be real, but those characters helped to fortify that bridge between us.
People may say that TV kills brain cells, but it certainly helped me be a better sister.