To my older, always-one-step-ahead-of-me sister, written with a lonely heart
September 5, 2008
Your plane left last week. Seppi and Cecilia are at school all day, and so am I. I want to tell you what public school is like because it’s an experience neither of us, as former homeschoolers, has ever had. I want to explain why I decided to enroll, but you’re already gone. I try to emulate your confidence when I have to talk in class, but I’m too terrified. If you were here, I wouldn’t be as worried because I would know that my best friend is always on hand.
Everybody asks where you are and what you’re doing. I hope you’re okay. Everybody misses you so much. Especially me. After school, when I’ve been razzed for saying the wrong thing at lunch, I come home and am brokenhearted not to have you here to pick apart the scenario, tell me what I did right, and tell me how you would have handled it. I know you would have been impervious to the onslaught of vicious peers’ comments. It seems the only people I get along with are the teachers, and that’s only if I don’t even think about mentioning politics.
To my sister, the center of my world, slipping away
January 5, 2009
You have just left the country again after a whirlwind visit home. The house is devastatingly quiet without you until I think about how little work I was able to finish when you were here. Your presence demanded so much of my attention. Before you arrived home for Christmas, I was so excited to tell you about all the wonderful things I had done while you were away. But as I tried to tell you about this, you spouted stories about the Guatemalan boys whom you had helped graduate from high school, the projects you had taken on when the other volunteers became too busy, the two men in their early twenties who had fallen in love with you and fought bitterly to win your affection. What I had done did not seem nearly as exciting, and I was almost ashamed to tell you.
Before you left, I never had these feelings. I loved you and you were my best friend, and that was enough.
To my sister, who needed to leave, so I could become
October 5, 2009
To my dearest older sister, Liv,
I miss you more than you can know. I want you to come home and I think about you daily. I imagine the moment when I will first see you after your long year away. Will we talk for hours of our exploits? It doesn’t matter though because I’ve just missed you so much.
With pride, I tell others what you are doing while you are away. Regretfully, I tell them, we rarely talk, so I can provide only the most basic information. I tell them that I miss you. I tell them that I am so anxious for your return. I tell them how my life is different since you have been gone.
And I realize how much it has been different since your departure, how much my life has changed. In your absence, something strange has happened. Without you here to guide my interests, to share my friends and to influence my decisions by preceding them with similar ones of your own, I’m expanding. I meet people I would not previously have associated with. I am voluntarily taking science classes at the college. Weirdest thing is this: I love them. Recently, I have begun to do so many things I wouldn’t do if you were home, not because they are too adventurous (we were always crazily adventurous), but because they are mine.
The people who used to come to you to be on their committees, or design t-shirts for them, or to help at an event, or to speak in church, are now coming to me. The same people who gushed over your accomplishments when they read about them in the newspaper are now turning to me. It is now I who receive congratulatory cards in the mail from distant friends. It’s awkward. But it’s so affirming.
At home, I am now the oldest. I find the younger siblings trouping to my workspace to peer at the work I am doing, with a strange gravitation toward the material they do not understand. They revere it only because I am the oldest. They look to me only because there is no one else. It is now I who advocate for them when they are being questioned by the head of the house. “I swear, Mom. Cecilia didn’t do it.”
We are no longer Oliv-Fiona or “the girls.” I am no longer second-best or “Olivia’s sister.” I’m just Fiona.
As I look back on this past year without you, I see my individuality, so very different from your own, blossoming. I marvel at things you would find uninteresting and I would have shrugged off before too. The things you loved (and I loved because you loved them) have been stored away, making room for new and exciting discoveries all my own.
I love you. I miss you. I can’t wait until you finally come home. But I am so glad you left, because in your absence, I found myself.
Forever your loving sister,
To my sister, half a world away, but always near
August 5, 2012
I’m about to see you for the first time in many months. We’re meeting in New York in a couple hours on my layover from the Dominican Republic where we will fly together to Toronto and then Dublin. When did we become these people?
I have something to tell you, but I’m so nervous. I know we haven’t been able to talk much recently, and I’ve been keeping a big secret from you.
Liv, I got engaged a month ago. He’s a guy you’ve never met. How could you have met him, given that we are in totally different parts of the world from each other?
I’m going to ask you to do something really difficult. It’ll be difficult for you because I know it would be difficult for me. I’m asking you to trust me. Please trust that I made a good choice and that I’m making the right decision. Please trust that I found a guy who is truly amazing and worth the commitment. I’m going to need your support when I break it to the rest of the family.
Also, I’d like to fulfill the promise I made to you years ago in the locker room after middle school swim practice. Would you be my Maid of Honor?
All my love,