Sometimes we have these wondrous moments of clarity in life. One such event occurred when I was seven, almost eight years old. My sister left for college and my life would never be the same.
I remember the day very well. She’d been packing for about a week. You know those giant Lesportsac bags that were cushion-y, soft, you could pack them to the hilt and not be penalized by the airlines? Oh to live and travel back in the 90’s folks. Those were the days.
Who remembers no fees, fines, weight or scrutinized size restrictions by the airlines? I do!
Dad and Debbie lugged each one down the long flight of stairs, bump, thump, wump.
I went out to the front yard to play…but really I was just feeling the beginning of a lonely heart.
As her bags were loaded up, so was part of my heart.
Now, I was no stranger to saying good bye to people. At a tender age of two I said good bye to my maternal grandmother. Even at that age I understood something serious had occurred. My grandma was no longer around and my mom was filled with a sadness that we could not ease. I wished on my third birthday for my grandma as I blew out the candles on the white and pink flower decorated cake. I wheeled my new indoor pipe tubed bike around the family room and wondered what it all meant in my own little way. Sadness will do that even to the young ones.
Debbie was outlined by the burning colors of autumn and leaves crunching under foot. As I gave her a hug and got a whiff of her curly highlighted blond and brown locks I thought to myself, “I’ll miss you.” Even if we’d been bickering hours earlier. Probably from me invading her space as I usually did. Little sisters just have a way with personal bubbles now don’t they?
Mom had said, “You’re going to miss her, stop arguing and be nice.” Easy to say and listen to although, the meaning was elusive to my young self.
Months later I would clean the etagere with our family photographs, mom’s collection of antique jewelry boxes and chachkas and I would look at her photograph. The one with you wearing the purple turtle neck shirt with the paisley vest. Bushy bob of bangs and hair half up and half down. You know the one right? Well, I’d look at that photo and think about what it must be like to be so far away at college. I missed bothering you. I missed knocking on your door and you asking me to leave you alone. I missed sharing a bathroom with you. I missed your cool friend’s coming over to visit and getting to pester all of you at once. I missed my big sister and her uniqueness that I cherished and admired.
But the thing I didn’t realize was that we’d draw nearer to each other through the years. You would become my confidant and pen pal. I had only had one pen pal prior, Grandpa in Montana. And might I just interject here that he was probably the best pen pal a kid could ever had. He kept me up to speed on all his ice fishing, hunting, and mountain driving extravaganzas.
Our letters, which I still have, every single one, were so special to me. I loved them. Every time I got a letter in the mail I’d be so excited to open it with that letter opener mom had and read and re-read each and every line.
I have carted those and Grandpa’s letter’s around for years. From one move to the next. Andy would always ask me, “Do we need this desk and what’s in these drawers?” And I would always reply, “YES I NEED THE DESK,” and my stuff!
Now the desk rests in our niece’s bedroom and the letters in my library. Safe keeping and such.
Through our letter writing and years into adulthood now I know that those years apart served a great purpose. It allowed me to learn about who you were as an individual. It also helped me to not hide in your shadow, but instead grow up to be that brave out going kid I had inside of me. You have taught me so much through the years. I cannot imagine who or what I would be without the help of your guiding wisdom and words.
You might be far, far away in Hong Kong, but you are always close to my heart. Sometimes I pull a card out and put one in my vanity to make me smile. For you see when I look in the mirror I see you and I see me.
I love you! Have a spark-tac-lar-ific day sister. xoxo