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Today, I said farewell to my baby sister. She’s moving out of state for college, and she and my father have just begun the first leg of their 20hr road trip. I think it will be good for her, and I hope she’ll be happy.

Last night, we talked. I haven’t really been near the family home in more than 6 years aside from scattered family reunions, so it was the longest conversation we’ve had since I’d been in high school. It brought home the fact that I’d lost touch with her, and that she’d lost touch with me. We were sisters, but we didn’t know each other…separated by both years and distance until we could have been just casual acquaintances staring at each other over the neutral zone of the dining room table, a wide expanse tied by the bonds of blood,  her need to have someone to talk to, & my need to try somehow to comfort & counsel.

I listened as my little sister poured out her grief at the life she was leaving behind: boyfriend, friends, family, the city in which she’d grown up, her job…listened as she mourned the loss of her relationship, her nervousness over what awaited her in California, her rueful despair over finding anyone she cared for as much as the man she was leaving behind, as well as the time it would take to find and develop a romance with someone else.

I learned we had something in common. My baby sister, just like me, believes that the best relationships start as friendships and then grow into something more. Neither of us has much interest in the casual dating scene. The ones we loved were the ones we loved first as friends; each relationship was literally years in the making. Trying to start all over again with someone new was something my sister dreaded.

I learned how she wanted love, and how she despaired of finding it in college—the place where many people meet their future spouse.  My sister’s path in life is slated to be unique: she’ll be a military surgeon or engineer, with the possibility/probability of rotating through stations around the globe every few years. The second she completes her education, the military owns her. While she’s grateful to them for the opportunity, and intends to go career when she gets out…She doesn’t feel it would be right to drag a civilian spouse with her. Finding one who’s also military presents challenges of its own with the regulations against fraternization between officers (among others).

I listened, tried to comfort, counsel, step up to the plate & my responsibilities; an older sister awkwardly coping with the fact that her baby sister wasn’t a baby anymore. We talked, and I made her smile, then she packed the last of her things–entrusting me with two pots of lucky bamboo, her babies, who she feared wouldn’t survive the trip since there was no safe place left in her fully loaded VW beetle. And then she was gone….pulling out of the drive and heading for California with my father alongside.

I’ve never yet managed to keep a plant alive for more than two weeks, my ‘green thumb’ is practically spawn of Chernobyl–all I have to do is walk into a room, and I can practically see plants wither on the vine. But I as watched my sister’s taillights disappear, I resolved to do my best by the little green tykes. I’m going to keep them alive until their mother comes back for them at Winter Break.

After all, what are big sisters for?

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