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My youngest sister dresses in skinny pink corduroys and Monster High studded sunglasses, owns a horse on howrse.com who apparently needs to be fed and prepares an iced chai masterfully.
She’s eight years old, 10 years my junior.
Her bedtime is eight o’clock on weeknights, so sometimes she’s asleep before I get home; she’s still asleep when I leave in the morning. So I get glimpses of her third grade life at the dinner table or on lazy Saturday mornings, on the drive to ballet or the walk through the Farmer’s Market, looking for honey ice cream and breakfast burritos.
The time I spend with my sister this year is often short in duration or plagued with distractions. Sophomore year, every time my mom picked me up from school, we’d pick her up right away on our ride home, and I’d hear about her day. But this year, since I had not made the trip, I knew little about the daily activities of her third grade life.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I made the trek down Providence Road and arrived in the third row of the North Lot at Columbia Independent School promptly at 3:30 p.m.
When we got home, we did not hurry to attend to our own activities. Rather, in the next hour and a half of conversation, I learned she had an open-note Mandarin test that was “hard even with notes,” that she thought her second generation iPod was “a little scary” because she couldn’t change the all-black background and that she didn’t like recesses when her friends weren’t getting along.
Her problems seemed so simple yet simultaneously so significant.
This reminder of my own worries at that age put into perspective my stressors now. One day, she’ll have 18-year-old worries, too, and by then, I’ll again be able to tell her how insignificant they become.
My youngest sister is a lot like me. She wants to take violin, even though piano, ballet and swimming already occupy her evenings; I want to go to that extra club meeting even though I probably shouldn’t. It’s just as hard for her to memorize the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble as it is for me to remember the integrals of trig functions. We both really enjoy “Full House” and our middle sister’s Nutella cookies.
But even with all these similarities, she has that little kid curiosity I seem to have lost. When she learns a new song, she plays it over and over again, bathing in the majesty of the piano’s harmonious melodies. When her book is funny, she walks around the house, reading the passage to anyone she can find. She has this genuineness about everything she does.
It’s a characteristic I hope she never loses. It’s one I hope I can restore.
Being around a little kid reminds me of how exhilarating it is to try or learn or accomplish something for the first time. Her new favorite color is lavender because it is pretty or maybe mauve because it sounds neat. And she wants to write Rick Riordan, of the Percy Jackson series, but she’ll only send a handwritten letter, not an email, she says. She’s considering becoming an author herself because she’s already written the first three chapters of her first book, “Pirates of Dusk,” although she admits her tendency to introduce new characters without really introducing them at all.
I’ve known all along how much my youngest sister enhances my life, but this sudden confirmation of it also reminds me not everyone can have the same experience.
Some can only learn a young child’s lessons from brief episodes of baby-sitting. Perhaps some will have to wait to have their own kids. Maybe some will never experience it at all.
But I can, so I will, especially in this last year of high school, possibly the last year we’ll be permanently situated under the same roof.
Next year, though we can Facetime and use the texting Application on her iPod, I might see her in person just on long weekends or even only on extended holidays.
Even so, I know our lives will be intertwined long after I graduate, long after she graduates herself, long after our kids’ kids follow suit.
She’ll be teaching me all my life, and I can’t wait for all I’ll learn from the perspective of someone a decade younger than me, someone who rode her first airplane at 10 months rather than five years old, someone who makes faces at Romney rather than joining the live chat of the debate, someone who will face the same things I have except in a world that is a little more grown up.
In the face of a 28-year-old, I feel I have little to teach. It’s interesting, then, that looking down at an eight-year-old, I think of all I can learn about the world. Reminiscing a full decade into the past is a reminder of how insignificant some stressors end up, how valuable friends can remain and how meaningful perspective can be.
By Nomin-Erdene Jagdagdorj
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