On the passage of time, little girls, and my sister
Baby girls are born every day and grow up to be and do all manner of things.
Sometimes, they are born with a stomach that has a tendency to malfunction in the middle of the night, resulting in screaming and crying and keeping their big sisters up.
And they are perfectly okay being held and patted on their bum until they calm down and fall asleep.
They can develop the world’s most annoying game – throw two dozen marbles onto a serving tray and watch, mesmerized, how they roll from one side to the other as they tilt the tray – and be entertained by it for literally hours, without even noticing the noise that drives all others to distraction.
If they’re truly special, they might develop such a specific, personal language that linguists want to study it. And in that language, it makes perfect sense to call a frog an ah-eeya, a cucumber an ahmeea, and a spoon an eeeeeppphhh. Even after that language has come and gone, Pinocchio will still – always and forever – be Piocchino.
When their mother has the hairdresser chop all their hair off into a bob cut for their (6th?) birthday, they can refuse to celebrate with their family until they’re bought a cool baseball cap with a bulldog on it to hide their near-baldness.
They can be the perfect size to slide under one’s big sister’s bed so that big sister and her boyfriend can be spied on. They can also be so boisterous that this plan ends up not working out. At all.
They can be a tomboy one day and a princess in pink the other. But they have no problem taking the best of both worlds and combining them. Why be one thing when you can kick ass, stomp around in boots, and also have the pinkest room known to man?
On holidays, they can demand to have their constant companions – a stuffed animal cat called Poes and a lion called Leeuwtje (after several trips of also bringing life-size lioness Leeuw, their mother might start questioning her own sanity) – by their side.
But pets can’t come along on holidays, so when such a tough-yet-girly girl holds the frozen carcass of her guinea pig Bir (frozen with ALL the best intentions AFTER DEATH by a big sister who shall remain anonymous) in her hands upon her return, she might burst into tears, even if “she didn’t care that much for him anymore anyway.”
And then when puberty rolls along, their pigheadedness and refusal to listen to any form of reason might lead to all sorts of stress and strain. But puberty fades, and love – especially after it’s tested – remains.
These girls can impersonate Gollum better than the actor who played the part, can recite all of Aragorn’s titles even in the middle of the night, after some heavy drinking. They can decide to move to the other side of the country and study psychology. They can work hard at statistics and harder at their ability to win (beer-based) boat races and be perfectly content with passing grades. And then they can suddenly take a turn for the serious and fall headfirst into their forensic psychology graduate program. And before you know it, they’re a Master of Science.
If there is any little girl about whom all of the above is true, it’s my little sister. My baby sister. No longer a little girl. She graduates today. Master of Science, forensic psychology. I remember when she was born. I remember going to the hospital in my Musketeer carnival costume. I remember the sleepless nights. I remember the diapers and the burping. I remember the frustration only older sisters know. I remember the anger. I remember pushing her and breaking her flipflop and bribing her with a Snickers bar (“No, TWO”) so she wouldn’t tell mom it was my fault. I remember the cuddles. I remember holding her hand every time we crossed a street. I remember when it was no longer necessary to do so, but I still wanted to. I don’t know where all of that time went, if it ever went anywhere. But I know it’s in my head.
I guess a Master of forensic psychology doesn’t need her hand held anymore – at least not when she crosses the street. But being a big sister, I’ll always make sure it hovers near hers anyway, just in case.