When you’re ten years older than your little sister, you leave for college and she is only nine. When you move away from home to start a new job and a new life she is only fourteen. So, in your mind, she stays fourteen and it is an impossibility that she could grow into a woman and do grown-up things because when you left, she was your little sister and little sisters do not grow up.
Despite all Maggie’s own accomplishments away at college and as a teacher post-graduation, in my mind I often catch myself thinking of her in the same place I left her more than a decade ago. Maybe I placed Maggie in some kind of imaginary time capsule and hoped that there would have been a chance to come back from all of my life adventures to find her still at home in our shared bedroom playing dolls and dress-up and discovering Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. And then I’d be able to fill in the sistering that I never did for her in the time I was gone. But that isn’t how time ticks. And in some whirlwind of months and a brief couple of recent years Maggie got engaged, wed a handsome young man, and this week gave birth to a darling baby girl. When my mom texted me the picture of Maggie holding Lilias, I stared for a second as my mind caught up with my eyes. My sister looks so young. Because she is. And this just seems impossible. Of course I cried tears over the sweet pictures. Logistics of responsibilities in my domain mean I can’t rush to the hospital room to scoop up the day-old soul. I’ll be there soon and then I’ll probably again stare in disbelief at my tiny Maggie – a new mommy. I last saw her caring for baby dolls and now her arms hold her own flesh and blood. It’s been almost ten years since I first became a mom. Ten years of time in sister years is long. There is no way to go back and make up the distance or reel in the distance going forward. The ten-year margin moves with us. I’ll continue on being busy with kids’ activities and other obligations while Maggie sits in the silence of newborn marvel – our pace and place in life different inevitably. Our life circles overlap like a Venn diagram, the white representing the times we couldn’t possibly share but that shaded place in the middle symbolizing the precious moments we can. And I’m so overjoyed to have my little sister join me in this incredible sphere of motherhood. Now we will enjoy the time we are together watching our own little girls play dolls, and dress-up, and discover Austen and Alcott. We know that, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11) Even time that feels distant or lost, is not lost to God. He redeems the time and offers space for sisters to embrace over new life and to anticipate new memories. So, I guess this might have finally done it. I might finally look at my sister, as she holds her daughter, and not see the little girl I remember from my past… the little girl I tucked into a time bubble for safekeeping. My mind might finally allow her to grow up.
But somehow, I don’t think so.