This weekend, my little sister graduated from college.
It was weird because, while to the people at college she is a perfectly grown-up grownup, to me she is and always will be about three and still has all her baby teeth. She is not old enough to drive. She is not old enough for diplomas.
To spite her for growing up and consequently making me older as well, I have to tell you a story about her that she hates for me to tell people. (But you know, because I'm a pretty horrible person to have as an older sister, I actually tell this story to everyone.)
When she turned nine, Elise had a birthday.
This, I know, is pretty standard. Let me finish.
You have to understand this first: she was a quiet kid. If you asked her what she wanted for lunch, she'd shrug and say, "I don't care." Even if she did care, she wouldn't tell you. Maybe it's because when we were little, The Golden Law of Being Company was that you ate whatever the host put in front of you, and you didn't ask for anything that wasn't on the table. There was this one time we stayed over at Grandma's house and, after being asked over and over what she wanted for supper but feeling fairly convicted that she wasn't supposed to say, Elise finally broke and blurted out, "Oh Grandma, I just wish chicken strips would fall out of your pants!"
With that one exception though, Elise kept The Law faultlessly, and it seemed to carry over into every other area of life for her to the point where it seemed as though she didn't have any opinions or desires at all. Which was why we were all very surprised when her ninth birthday came along and she actually had a legitimate birthday wish: Money.
No birthday presents, please. Just cash. And she wouldn't tell us why.
It was probably the most baffling to me, a fourteen-year-old whose favourite thing maybe ever was opening presents. I couldn't think of anything more boring than a birthday with no surprises. Just white envelopes with bills inside. I mean, I figured she had something pretty amazing she was saving up for, but for a nine-year-old to give up birthday presents I couldn't imagine what it was.
But, because Elise never asked for anything, ever, (save for one rash chicken strip wish) no one could deny her the one thing she wanted. So all she got for her birthday that year was money.
And that night, she collected it all together in one envelope and asked Mom to help her find the address for an orphanage in Haiti.
I wanted a boom box for my birthday.
Wherever she is right now reading this, she's probably a million shades of red. But Ceese, (that's right; I'm talking to you) there are a lot of reasons why I love telling people that story.
One of them is that this story isn't just about nine year-old you. It's about you then and you now and most likely you in twenty years. It's a perfect picture of the person you are all the time.
And maybe another reason is that I never really learned how to be good and sentimental. I feel awkward saying straight out, "I'm so proud of you." (I need to work on that.) But when I tell that story about you, I feel like people can tell. And I hope you can tell. I'm a very proud big sister.
Just like I was on Sunday when you walked across the stage and got your diploma. And just like I was a few weeks ago when I found out that you're heading off to Haiti next year to finally hold those babies.
Congrats, Ceese. Love you.