Twenty-One Years a Sister

Six years ago today, my sister turned fifteen.  Hispanic girls are treated to elaborate pageantry on their fifteenth birthdays, complete with the appointment of a “court” with ritualized dancing and proclamations of admiration and pride from friends and family.  At least one parent usually gives a long speech highlighting their children’s accomplishments and any unusual fortunes that have visited the family in the past few years.  More than just a birthday party, the event is a time for extended circles of blood and water to grow tighter and better-informed about each other, and for holding together a community that increasingly does not hold itself.

It isn’t standard for the birthday girl’s siblings to also deliver speeches, but I wrote something brief for her.  Expressions of affection in a household are…complicated…when one sibling is autistic and the other two aren’t, and I wanted to take this chance to share something warmer than I could bear to bring forth in ordinary times.

Six years later, she’s not in high school anymore and our relationship has grown accordingly, but the affection and wonderment at the person my sister has become are just the same.  There is one correction I need to make, though, to make this moment ring through the ages and to make it fit with the shape our relationship will now take.

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I still can’t believe it’s you.

Some part of me still thinks of you as that child famous for her temper tantrums, the little girl wearing adult clothes in that photo that won Mom some kind of magazine award, or standing confused on a tree stump next to a river in New Jersey.

My little sister.

And look at you now.  It feels ridiculous still calling you that, with how much you’ve grown, just how not “little” you are anymore.  You’re in high school, fighting through math and science, working toward an art I never felt I understood until very recently, making lifelong friends, enjoying relationships, doing things that I was doing not so long ago…

My little sister.

You’re not so little anymore.

The world has gotten bigger and you’re growing into it better than I ever did.  Soon you’ll wander off and make your own way into this great big world, and there’ll be no stopping you.  Wherever you set your ambitions, you are destined for greatness.

My little sister.

You’ll always be my little sister, and I couldn’t be more proud to be your older sister.

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