Today is my little sister’s birthday.
She is not so little anymore, which makes me really not so little.
Today, she is 29, and I’m old. Older than I’ve ever been. A mom of a 7-1/2-year-old and a 3-1/2-year-old, a newlywed again, a rookie at my company again, a newbie in this western town we now call home, a new homeowner again…
Life is funny like that. The new beginnings that just keep coming. Even when we’re old. Older than we ever thought we’d be back when we were kids and contemplated things like adulthood in terms of how many kids we’d have and what kind of car we’d drive. Possibly what we’d be when we grew up. My daughter plans to make ice cream, by the way. And be a mom. She’s going to have 10 kids.
Yes, I encouraged her to reconsider.
My daughter also answers simply, sweetly, “I know,” when someone, anyone, tells her she’s beautiful, or that she’s pretty, or cute or funny or awesome or any of those adjectives we use to describe precious little girls like her.
And I want to know every time, how do we keep that confidence alive? How do we protect her from the world’s bullies, the models and the cheerleaders and the everyday wear and tear that molds us into grown-ups with office jobs and routines and mortgages and meal plans? If we’re lucky.
Anyway, I’m old and my daughter is perfect and my little sis today turned one year away from 30 years on this planet.
It seems not that long ago I braided her hair the morning our parents spent too long fighting. Long after breakfast and my little-girl little sister hadn’t had her hair brushed. So second-grade me decided to be responsible.
I hear that trait can be irritating. Boring. We’re called serious and rule-followers and no fun. We do things like go to college as expected. We don’t just go. We get straight A’s. We graduate in 4 years. We say no to drugs (Zimas didn’t count), we apply to be an RA even though that’s the last thing any of us actually want to do for the free room and board and because it looks good on a resume, we study abroad and we get newspaper internships that require us to wear ties and skirts and heels and cover awful stories no one else wants. Really. We called parents of dead people. Often. Once, I was sent out to the middle of a tornado to deliver a digital camera to a real reporter. But we did those things because we were supposed to.
And maybe it was all worth it.
Either way, we’re here now, in this life, one way or the other. And it’s better than it ever was before. Sometimes, I wonder if the paths all lead to the same ending regardless. Sometimes, I think we really do write our own stories.
In this story, my story, the world is warm. We’re old, yeah. But not really. We still have a long ways to go, thank God. I want on this ride for as long as I get.
The horizon now is long, and somehow I see it more clearly than ever.
This is the path, the road to real-life Oz, the rock star in his hot air balloon away from Omaha.
The rainbow is as big as I ever imagined.