Little Sister

My memory of that October afternoon is very vivid. The sky was clear and blue and it was the peak of fall leaf season.  I was at the neighbor’s house on the corner climbing a tree. As I emerged from the red and orange canopy I looked out in time to see Grandma Mary’s old green car pull up beside me. She called to me through the open window and told me it was time to go home. Mom had gone to the hospital – to have a baby.

It’s funny how old memories like that are clear about some points and fuzzy about others. My recollections don’t really contain much anticipation about your imminent arrival. I am sure that my self-involved,  seven year-old mind had probably not spent much time thinking about how your presence would affect my daily life.  I honestly don’t remember much about your homecoming or subsequent baby and toddler years. Small bits do come to mind – your long, blonde hair (that I envied – mine was coarse and a nondescript dark brown), your kindergarten graduation, Easters and Christmases and a few birthday parties you had with friends. There were typical sibling skirmishes and “two against one” divisions, but nothing is really distinct.

When we were young we were far enough apart in age that we didn’t do a lot together, outside of the regular family gatherings.  I was a pretty independent and social child, always going to play at the neighbors or off to a school or church or scouting event. As a teen I was extremely detached – far too ‘cool’ to hang out with family. I was always out with my friends or at school. I really didn’t spend a lot of time at home, except when our parents went out every Friday and Saturday nights.  Being the family babysitter was a job that I was not particularly fond of. I know that I was not an attentive caregiver.  I am sure that I spent most of that time on the phone or in front of the television, not bonding with my siblings.

I do remember that one summer when I was in college. You were about 12 years old, worried about middle-school “girl problems” – friends, school, fashion. I was 19 and very worldly (or so I thought). We spent the summer sleeping in the same small bedroom while we redecorated yours. We stayed up late, calling in requests to the local radio station. I gave you a ton of advice –  it was heady stuff, being looked up to like that. I loved the attention. The best part of the summer, however, was discovering the joy of having a sister to share things with.

It seems like we have almost always been at different points in our lives, and that has made it tough at times. When I got married and you were my Maid of Honor you were only 14 years old. When my children were babies you were enjoying college. I recall how I coveted your freedom then. It was great fun to come and visit you in your dorm and pretend to be a co-ed for a weekend, though. It felt good to forget my responsibilities for a while. The long letters and telephone calls we exchanged did keep us close then. I had never been away from home that long myself, and I think I felt your homesickness almost as much as you did.

Over the years our relationship has ebbed and flowed, sometimes strong, sometimes distant. It seemed at times we both focused on what was in front of us, taking each other’s presence for granted.  Once you were an adult on your own, much like when we were younger, I sometimes let my own self absorption get in the way. My jealousy of what I saw as your single, carefree lifestyle plus my additional obligations to husband/children/work made it easy for us to drift a bit. Dealings with parents certainly added their own complications to our relationship…first driving us apart, then bringing us back together.

Now we have come full circle. You have your own family responsibilities, just as my girls have all left home. We don’t have Mom to bring us together any longer, it’s completely up to the two of us. To me, sometimes our bond feels tentative and new..

You are a now single parent – something that I never experienced. I am humbled by the amount of work I know you face every day. You made a courageous choice to do it on your own, something I don’t think I would ever have had the strength to do. I also appreciate having the opportunity to be “Tia”. I know you have been a wonderful Aunt to my girls and I only hope I can do half as well with your son.

I cannot tell you how happy I am that we have become close once again. I think that your physical proximity will be good for us as well. It is so nice to have family just up the road, someone who shares much of the same history and understands me because of it. We are finally getting to the point where we can have a conversation that doesn’t just center around our parents and their needs. That is refreshing.  It is nice to have you as a friend.

On this anniversary of that October day so long ago, I would like to take the time to wish you a Happy Birthday!  I want you to know how much I appreciate our relationship – every bit of it. You have helped me throughout my life in more ways than you could ever know.  I am blessed to have you as a sister. I Love You!
Sisters, Concert, summertime, adult sisters, Middle-age

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Twenty One

I remember.

I remember waiting and waiting during that long month of January.  We thought you would never come. I didn’t know what to expect and I worried about what kind of Momma I would be, if I could keep up with three of you. I wondered if you would be an easy baby…if you would be happy or difficult to soothe…if your sisters would accept this new change for our family.

I remember the storm that followed your entrance into the world.  The day after you were born the skies opened up and a blizzard arrived. The hospital was so quiet that day.  It was our time to be alone before the whirlwind that our life was now to become.

I remember those first few months when you made your presence known. You yelled and cried and would not be ignored. It was a difficult time, but it brought us all closer, trying to find ways to pacify you. Everyone pitched in, your Papa, your sisters, and the rest of the family.  We all had our time of getting to know you.

I remember your independence and persistence and shouts of “ME DO IT!” as you kept up with  your sisters.  You taught us all patience and understanding as we watched you learn and grow. It was wonderful to see how quickly you learned new things. You were never one to be left out.

I remember leaving you at the sitters when I went back to work.  You cried and held on to me…she had to rip you from my arms so that I could go. My heart broke.  I drove away blindly, my eyes overflowing with tears. I felt so guilty to be leaving someone so small with a stranger.

I remember watching you transform into a sparkler, our “smiley” one. The little girl who made friends easily and was always the one that the other children wanted to sit by and play with.  Your beautiful blonde bob was always whirring around the group, very easy to spot! (I know you hated that haircut, but it suited you so well)! You danced and laughed and sang and made a mark on everyone who crossed your path.

I remember the teenage years, when you fought so hard for your independence.  The need to be different from  your sisters, to succeed on your own. You didn’t want to be known as the “littlest” one – you wanted to be counted on your own merit. It was hard at times, but you did a wonderful job of forging your own path.  You are such a true leader!

I remember long car rides to Buffalo, and Ohio, and Kentucky, and Atlantic City.  All those hours talking and singing every song that came on the radio.  You have such an amazing memory for all of those lyrics, it astounds me!  We spent so much time together during those years that you were the “only” one, after your sisters were gone.  You put up with me not only as your Momma, but your coach as well.  You were such a great example to all of the younger ones, and you made me proud so many times on that big blue mat.

I remember looking for colleges and hearing about your plans for your future. You were serious and thoughtful and so mature. It surprised me a little that you weren’t my baby any more.  The excitement of finding a place – then finding a better one.  The shopping and planning and preparing for you to leave us, then the awful/wonderful moment when you did.  The quiet and adjustment of your absence on a daily basis. The joy that you found a place where you feel so happy. The tears when I look at your empty room.

On this day, my beautiful daughter, I marvel at how quickly it has all flown by.  Twenty one years, gone in a flash! You are truly a “grown up” now, not the little tow headed tag along of all those years ago. You are amazing and smart and independent and strong.  You have made friends and started your journey out into the world on your own. I am in awe when I watch you do your thing, with your sisters, with your friends, with your co-workers and supervisors.  I am happy and proud and a little bit sad sometimes because I miss your presence.

I remember all of the hours of joy that you have brought into my life.

Please remember that I am ALWAYS here.

Happy Birthday! ❤