Baby sister no more, and yet always

I remem­ber the first day of Decem­ber, eigh­teen years ago. It was a soft, snowy morn­ing on our farm on the west­ern edge of Min­neso­ta, and my two sis­ters and I had fin­ished feed­ing the goats and chick­ens, and had some­how wan­dered down to the end of our short dri­ve­way, where we were engaged in a play­ful fight with quick-packed balls of the wet, heavy new-fall­en snow. We were osten­si­bly watch­ing for the arrival of our chi­ro­prac­tor, delayed by the weath­er, but we had most­ly for­got­ten about that after a few min­utes of joy­ful squeals.

Then dad’s voice rang out across the silent yard.

If you want to see this baby born, you bet­ter get in here now!”

Oh, things were hap­pen­ing fast! We wal­lowed across the snowy yard, tum­bled into the house, and—no doubt leav­ing our win­ter clothes is a tan­gle heap in the porch—we qui­et­ly piled into Mom and Dad’s tiny bed­room which was today the birth room. And it was not long at all before a tiny new sis­ter slid into the morn­ing light and into our lives.

We had a spe­cial bond (I think) all the years I was still home. There are a great many pic­tures of the grin­ning teenage Me with an equal­ly-grin­ning wee sis­ter in my arms: “My two ends” our moth­er always called us fond­ly. I walked her to sleep for her naps, often to the sound­track of the bois­ter­ous Russ­ian clas­si­cal music I was so fond of in those days, or the jaun­ty Bea­t­les songs I was just then dis­cov­er­ing (or The King’s Singers’ cov­ers there­of). One of her first words was “Help!” to request the song of the same name.

And then off I went to col­lege, and I nev­er came back. Not to stay, any­way. She has grown up a great deal since then. Her expe­ri­ence of being a home­schooled teenag­er has been very dif­fer­ent from mine, prob­a­bly inevitably. She is a very tal­ent­ed musi­cian and dancer, although I have almost no first­hand knowl­edge of her impres­sive per­for­ma­tive vir­tu­os­i­ty, since my adult life has kept me large­ly far away in recent years from the excit­ing events back at my fam­i­ly seat. I have missed out.

And now she is eigh­teen, get­ting ready to leave the house her­self very soon, just as I did back when she was just mas­ter­ing the abil­i­ty to form whole sen­tences. Dance through life with con­fi­dence, Lit­tlest Sis. You will be awe­some.

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