She wore a fluffy elf cap—powder pink, of course—and at barely an arm’s length, she already sported wispy hair and delicate fingers and toes. Still, her puffy eyes seemed too big for her tiny visage, which seemed curled into an eternal…scowl? Gingerly, I poked one chubby cheek. “Not cute at all,” I thought disappointedly as I gazed at my one-day-old sister for the first time. In my impressionable twelve-year-old mind, I’d always imagined baby sisters to be doll-faced angels, the photoshopped kind found on Huggies boxes. So my disillusionment was expected, or so I thought. I would hardly understand what siblinghood entailed until this “little bundle of joy” was long here to stay. Bundle of joy, indeed. Well, joy is wondrously nuanced, I would soon discover.
It took a while, but my initial bewilderment dissipated in time as I eagerly—perhaps even too eagerly—fell into the big sister and third parent role. At first, I wanted her childhood to be seamless in ways mine was not. It was the little things I taught her at first—that Lego structures built with the smallest piece at the bottom would probably not last, that the laws of physics indicated that bicycles were meant to be pedaled or else they would topple over. I’d dreamed of someday dueting Brahms’ Hungarian Dances with my sister, and, caught up in my own fantasy, I boldly assumed that my passions were to become her passions, my unrequited dreams and accomplishments hers, my perfectionism the same driving force that would serve her as well.
But despite my “teaching,” it dawned upon me that I was no match for her individuality—or her contagious mirth, for that matter. There is a certain unchecked innocence about her that could only come from one who was not infallible and did not strive to be so. I could not help but be captivated by her ability to laugh off even my sternest criticisms during a piano lesson; her carefree disposition constantly reminded me, in an uncanny, transcendental sort of way, to trust in the world and in myself a bit more. During the Perseids meteor shower, when my sister insisted on accompanying me in my childhood hobby of stargazing, I could only laugh at her childish conception of meteors to be glittery embodiments of “Tinker Bells” flashing across the sky. Yet as I watched her enraptured gaze fixated at who-knowswhere on the horizon, I realized that for her, no idea is too far-fetched, no solution too impossible. With this pervasive mindset, I’m able to approach ideas from a new angle, to take risks when caught in an experimental muddle, to concoct unconventional designs in the newspaper. It is with this candid and inquisitive mentality that I ask “why?” to questions with no answers, to be earnest, to live.
Because of my sister I’ve learned to love bread crusts, the ends of ice cream cones—and everything else that needed to be consumed in her wake. Because of my sister, I bypassed moody teenagerhood. Because of my sister, I realized the beauty and simplicity of a child’s reality.
And from that first day I saw her, I have not scowled since.