To have my little sister along with me

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She used to follow me up the coulee and along the crick, her purple barn jacket zipped up under her chin, the rubber soles of her boots keeping a careful distance between her and her big sister who hadn’t discovered her lurking behind the trees yet.

I would leave the house unannounced to sing to myself as I inspected my tree fort, the frog count on the crick and the wild raspberry plants growing alongside the beaver dam. And she almost always followed, stopping at the tire swing for a quick ride.

My daydreaming mentality made it so I almost never noticed her behind me until we were well into our journey up the crick and I had no choice but to keep her along with me, no matter my protest. Because she’s always been more strong-willed than me, more stubborn and certain and all of the things I could have used more of in my life.

But I was on my way to growing out of her, I thought, the way big sisters do when they find themselves searching for the independence needed to survive impending adulthood. And I was five years older and wiser, and I didn’t know where she fit in my world as I sat cross-legged on the pink carpet of my bedroom floor, strumming my guitar and writing love songs to the clouds.

But she was there, right across the hall from me dreaming her own dreams, right behind me in my footsteps, right beside me in Dad’s pickup, and in the front row clapping during my volatile and sensitive years, the ones that prepare us to launch out and on our own, but I wasn’t there for hers.

I missed the parts where she found herself in love for the first time, her winning baskets on the court, her late-night cries over friends, her name in the paper on the honor roll, the straight A’s on the fridge.

I was gone by then, out of the house and down the road miles and miles, and I’m sure she could have used a sister in the house for that.

It’s funny, I’ve never really thought about it until today – today when I’m struggling to find a way to convey what it’s like to wait for her call… if she needs me… if it’s going OK… if she’s arrived…

By the time you read this she will have given birth to her first born, a daughter. As I type she’s in the hospital room, my baby sister wincing at the needles, breathing through the pain, leaning steadfast into a new life.

A new life that seemed like a faraway myth all those years ago as we walked together in the trees, the sun sinking below the treetops to sparkle on us through dark branches as we headed up the trail toward home. And a hundred years later, or just a blink of an eye, here we are in big forts we call houses, two wide-eyed, wild-haired children raising children of our own.

And I’m so glad to have her along with me.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughter on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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