After the fifth stall the smell went away. I carried the pitchfork, its height almost matching mine, over to the blue wheelbarrow. I could hear her a couple stalls away murmuring to the horses, speaking a language I wondered if I would ever comprehend. A loud neighing behind my left shoulder startled me back to the task at hand. If I mucked this row of stalls I could ride her horse for a few minutes. Then after I would go to the Veterinary Office with her as she finished the day’s duties –maybe I would be able to hold a few animals. I entered the stall and got to work, sifting through soiled shavings and chatting with the mare. Audrey most likely saw the situation as if she had to babysit me, might as well have me help her at the barn – I saw it as a gift to have a glimpse into her life and t0 play with some animals.
As I became self-absorbed in battling the perils of adolescence, Audrey embarked on her adult life. She left the brick house on Middle Road in Farmington, Connecticut and moved to the House of Love that sat at the end of another Middle Road in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She didn’t look back.
She was in her early twenties, but at six years her younger she seemed like a full-fledged adult. So when my mom told me that Audrey bought a house and later engaged, I wasn’t shocked because that is what I thought adults do. She was only 23.
Her other half, Josh, naturally became part of the family, embracing his role as the comedian and peace keeper. It was at our cousin’s San Diego wedding where he truly experienced the Perri family – and still wanted to stick around. She found a keeper.
I left for college while navigating my own muddy waters. At that point I was naturally closer with my younger two siblings and finding common ground with the second oldest, Leah. Audrey was simply my eldest sister who lived in New Hampshire and created a life of her own. My mom would share the big updates on her life or I would eavesdrop in on conversations. I respected her from afar as my mind was too young to make sense of her world.
As much as Audrey strived to be independent from the family, she never lost the maternal instinct that the oldest sibling inherits. When the time called for it, she would swoop in and care for us. She had this uncanny ability to check in and check out when her siblings needed that guidance.
Several years later I left America to start this never-ending journey of self-discovery and global exploration. When I started putting my thoughts into words and sharing my story, my elusive sister Audrey commented on my writing with praise and encouragement. I didn’t realize how much her recognition meant to me until she gave it.
Summer of 2014 was peaking and my road decidedly was bringing me home to the States. Not wanting to return to Connecticut, Audrey gave me the option to move in with her and Josh to help her with their new son, Geovanni, and get my feet on the ground.
I agreed, unknowing that they would do much more than that.
Audrey was my mysterious older sister. She was a blue ribbon winner, a wife, a home owner, a writer. She was a force at family gatherings and holidays, her personality dominating the room. I didn’t know her as well as my other siblings but admired her more.
Within weeks of my return home the Perri family’s matriarch, Noni, passed away. I admittedly do not handle death well and the loss of my last grandparent was far from easy. While grieving, I was also adjusting to life back in America, job searching, and pondering my future plans. I withdrew from the chaos. Naturally, Audrey’s maternal side kicked in and she took charge. She kept me from losing all that I have gained, from losing my sense of self.
Josh and Audrey welcomed me into their home, not as a guest but as a member. They have provided for me, more than just with accommodation. I am forever grateful for their unconditional support. They were my cheer leaders and my devil’s advocates. They picked me up off the floor or gave me space when needed. They talked me through my guilt, beliefs, and plans for the future. They shared their world with me.
We survived an epic New England winter together, and those snowed in days and nights led to storytelling. I didn’t know, or didn’t remember, the details of their love story before becoming roommates so hearing it and seeing it gave hope to the hopeless romantic in me.
On the first day they met, their souls ignited when they recognized their counterpart in one another. Past life, future life, and present life cosmically came together. To find someone who captures your heart and will never release it is rare in this world.
The decision was made before the words were said, it would be forever. Within a few months after first meeting each other they were living together and then bought a house. Within a few months from becoming homeowners they were engaged. Then in early October of 2007 they made their vows to eternally love one another official in front of friends and family. Eight years later, that fire within them has not died out.
I learn a lot from other people’s stories, experiences, and lives. I’ve seen a lot of relationships fail, struggle, and survive. Audrey and Josh’s partnership is thriving. They have been through their fair share of challenges, and not every day is a honeymoon. They were 23 when they bought a house and moved in together. When I was in my mid-teens that seemed ancient, however now at 26 I cannot even fathom how they accomplished it all. They found each other early on and identified a love that was bigger than them - a genuine love that allowed them to conquer every obstacle thrown their way together.
A union of two souls originates outside of time and space. However, the pure pearl of natural love cannot persist in our worldly environment without protection. Humanity’s ability of conscious thought and emotion requires nurture for that union. I believe communication, support, and respect are the founding pillars of any kind of friendship or relationship. Audrey and Josh built their marriage upon those pillars.
They not only shared their home with me; they shared what the term soul mate really means. As I proudly claim, I will never settle for a love that is less than extraordinary. They have a love that challenges, laughs, questions, kisses, supports, and protects – a love I hope one day to have.
The bonds with each of my siblings have evolved from childhood companions to life allies. Audrey, the new matriarch, Leah, my North star, Anthony, our gentle giant, and Laurel, my honest rebel.
The family I was born into and the family I have chosen are the most important people in my life. Individually they complete me.