The Magazine

Sister Kari

Kari Barbic, her brother's keeper.

Aug 3, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 43 • By KARI BARBIC
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I arrived at the church promptly at 9 A.M. Five millimeter pearl studs graced my earlobes; my hair was swept back into a neat bun. Remarkably, I was up, dressed, and ready to go with only one cup of coffee in my system. It's rare that I wear pearls, and even rarer that I skip my second cup of coffee. But this was a special occasion: My big brother was getting married.

The wedding day is an epoch in the rearing of a big brother. I'd put in 26 years of vigilant effort to bring him this far, and I had to admit he had turned out rather well. Of course, there was no need to mention this to him. Big brothers' egos do not require regular testimonials to their greatness. It's usually much more constructive to share stories of their not-so-stellar moments in life (which are generally in greater abundance as well). Like, "Remember when you taped me up with duct tape so you could pretend to be MacGyver?" Good times, indeed. But if you raise him right, a big brother can grow up into the kind of person you're not ashamed to be related to.

After taking "one last look" in the mirror and making final adjustments to hair or makeup, a long line of bridesmaids in chartreuse silk started to form. I breathed a sigh, slipped into my three-and-a-half-inch heels, and took my place. At 10 A.M. we were off. As our bridal party, 20 strong (9 bridesmaids, 9 groomsmen, and the principals), overtook the east front of the Capitol, tourists refocused their cameras from the Statue of Freedom atop the dome to our parade. I'm not sure how many summer vacation slide shows or Facebook albums we ended up in, but just in case I made it into yours, I'm the tall, fair-skinned, auburn-haired one, also known as Bridesmaid #9.

Many official photos later, our throng was on our way back to the church. More pictures. Then a few minutes to relax before go-time. Snacks, but still no coffee. And before we knew it, 12:42 P.M struck. I freshened my lipstick, reluctantly tossed aside my flip flops, and waited for my next cue.

Ten minutes to one was official line-up time. Armed with bouquet, I took my place at the front of the line to enter the sanctuary. Personally, I dislike standing in line, regardless of what for: graduation, groceries, voting. A great modern invention is the line "reservation," such as the Disneyland FASTPASS. Why couldn't I have had a wedding fast pass to hold my place while I ran to Starbucks? I could have been back for my 1:01 P.M. reservation.

Instead, I was stuck practicing the exercises we had been given to prevent locking our knees during the hour-long ceremony, and vaguely contemplating two profound questions: (1) Can I permanently lose the feeling in my middle toe? If so, are toe transplants practiced and likely to be successful? and (2) Will Ken remember our plan? Probably not. At the wedding rehearsal, we had devised a little brother-sister affirmation. The plan was that when I reached the end of the aisle and walked past him, we would bump fists, Obama-style. We had both matured quite a bit since the days when I used to meet him with a swift kick to the shin. Still, considering our history, I was a little nervous that he might leave me hanging.

Five past one: Cue bridesmaids. I ventured out and headed carefully down the aisle. One three-and-a-half-inch heel at a time. When you're already five-nine and add those extra inches, well, six feet is a long hard fall. Halfway there and no glitch. More confident of my footing, I lifted my gaze from the path in front of me to catch my big brother's eye. There was the familiar smirk: The one that used to say, "Hey, I've got an idea  .  .  .  " and usually ended with me sitting alone in my room waiting for my half of the punishment. Still not completely sure if I'd be left hanging, I kept a firm grip on my hydrangeas.

With a smile and a nod, my big brother put out his fist, just as he had promised. I smiled back and met him with my right fist. Bump. As I took my spot at the front of the church, I heard someone whisper, "That's his sister." My smile broadened, and I'm quite sure I stood just a little taller.

KARI BARBIC