My mother tells me that when I was little and someone I really liked, but didn’t get to see often would show up at the house for a visit, the first words out of my mouth would be, “When are you leaving?” My parents would have to quickly apologize to our guests, explaining that I was not trying to be rude, but rather I had to be aware of how long they were staying so that I could brace myself for when It would be time for them to go. As I have mentioned before, goodbyes have always been hard for me. I like to make them as quick and painless as possible and a fourteen-hour roadtrip to Indiana is as long and painful as goodbyes get.

It was August 2003 and my mother, father, cousin, sister and I had all piled into my mom’s white SUV to take a trip halfway across the country. My sister had just graduated from high school a couple months earlier and the day I was dreading had arrived. It was time to say farewell to the most precious thing in my life. I tried to think of every single possible way to weasel out of making the long trek to drop her off at college, but my parents weren’t budging. I was going on that trip whether I liked it or not. And believe me, I did NOT like it. 

After saying our last words and giving our last hugs, we got back into that SUV with one less person and a lot less stuff and I cried until I wasn’t sure I could cry anymore. Then, I picked a fight with my father. We fought all the way through Ohio. My poor cousin had to mediate. Being angry for a few hours made me feel a little less sad for a while. When I got back home and went to my room, I discovered a CD and a letter waiting for me. My sister was half a country away and she was still taking care of me. In that letter was everything I needed to hear and the CD contained many important songs from our childhood together.

Anyone who doesn’t know my sister is missing out. Everyday, I wonder how it is possible for someone to be so intelligent, beautiful, funny, kind, hopeful, and generous. You should hear the things her friends and coworkers say about her when she isn’t even around to hear them. The stories of how she has loved and encouraged so many are innumerable. I have stories of my own, too. Times I was being a bratty, baby sister and she gave me grace I didn’t deserve, plane tickets she bought to come see me in Chicago or for me to go see her in California during seasons I wasn’t doing well, telephone calls where I talk her ear off and she always listens and never has a harsh word to say, and so many more experiences that would require I write for days to name them all. Alexandra is magic and everyone who gets within a few feet of her knows it.

There is a bond that siblings have that no one else can match. The amount of history shared, the understanding of background and family, the defining childhood moments… Siblings see it all. Even if you aren’t getting along, the reason brothers and sisters can trouble you so much is they know you well enough to hit you where it really hurts. Who else knows all about your parents’ quirks or remembers each of your former pets’ names? My sister was the only one (and most likely always will be) who ever understood what it was like to be a mixed girl growing up in Maine. As close as some of my friends I have made in recent years are, no one will ever grasp as well as she does how great a transformation I have made from an anxious child terrified of rejection to the confident, clear-headed woman I am capable of being today. I owe so much to her and my hope is over time I’ll slowly be able to pay her back.

Today my big sister turns 29. I am thankful for the times we have had together both happy and sad. I’m amazed by her strength and I couldn’t be more proud of all she has accomplished. I understand that not everyone has a sibling like mine and the relationship I have with my sister isn’t easy to come by. But if you have a sibling and there is something you can do today to make sure you have the chance at getting even a fraction of what we have, do it. Life is too short and sisters and brothers are too important to lose. Pick up the phone, a pen, or your laptop and make that first move. Reminisce, tell them how much you love them, swap a funny story, or ask for some advice. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the chance to grow closer to the person who can “get” pieces of you no one else ever will.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful sister. I love and treasure you. Every moment we have together is a joy and I look forward to a lifetime of memories I wouldn’t want to make with anyone else. Cheers!