I remember one night, my sister and I were talking about what would happen when our parents died. Not with any gravity, not with any real examination of the reality of being alive without our parents, but thinking about what it would be like to just have each other. She made me promise to die after her.
I remember the day my sister was born with odd clarity. It’s my first memory that still seems somewhat whole. I can still close my eyes and glimpse the day in flashes, like strobe lights of nostalgia. My dad picking me up from school and holding my hand as we walked to the car, the hospital visitor bracelet around his wrist. The Fresca (not Sprite) and blueberry muffin I had while doing my homework at the hospital. In retrospect, I’m not really sure what homework I could have had at age 4, but back then I went to Catholic school so anything is possible.
And then I remember meeting her. Sitting in bed with my mom, they let me hold her for the first time. I had wanted a little sister, and after months of waiting, here she was. And she was so tiny, so fragile. That day I learned a new word: awe.
She has been driving for a few months now, but last weekend was the first time I saw her behind the wheel. I acted like the worst backseat driver, while sitting in the front, nervously glancing at her hands on the wheel the road, how far she was from the curb. My sister didn’t feel old enough to be operating a moving vehicle, and I fought the urge to ask her to pull over so someone else could drive. Learning to drive means you can leave.
She showed me her prom dress, a royal blue lacy concoction that showed a sliver of skin at the waist. My own prom doesn’t seem that long ago, it’s bewildering to think that it was in 2013. A full 4 years, which at nearly 21, is almost 20% of my existence so far. Prom in some ways, is not so much a rite of passage but a line drawn firmly in the sand. It is on the cusp of her senior year, college, in many ways, real life. It’s hard to imagine my sister going away to college, moving her into an empty dorm room, when the last time she shared a bedroom was with me. My brow is furrowed at the thought of her going to college parties, drinking neon potions from red plastic cups, and god forbid kissing boys. Thinking of her future is like breathing life into novel on the life of someone I don’t know. The same milestones in my life that I cleared with joy, always wanting to get to the next thing, to be in the adult world, I now view with trepidation and fear in my sister’s.
The logical part of my brain knows I’m being ridiculous. That I’m acting like an overprotective mother when my sister trails behind me by a little less than four and a half years. That in many ways, she is more capable than I am. That she is smart and brilliant and mature and she will be just fine. But the louder voice recalls the first day we met, that at 4 years old she was one of the few things that was smaller than me. And she breathed and she cried and made odd little sounds that seemed like her own language. That we came from the same place of blood and flesh, and yet were so different. But I need to remind myself that when I held her in my arms that day, she hardly knew the world, but when I placed my finger in her tiny, rosebud palm, she held on as tight as she could.