I can’t remember birthdays, but I do remember a vast collection of verses and fragments of lullabies. These have been defining characteristics of my role as eldest of nine children. I have managed to consistently remember the birthday of one brother, closest in age to myself, and after that I lost track entirely of the dates, months, and even seasons that marked the entrance of my younger siblings into our family. However, I sang most of the younger ones to sleep on a regular basis, and read all of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings out loud on long Wisconsin winter nights and languid summer ones, too.
That is why I am writing this birthday post about my beautiful little sister Colleen today….
instead of yesterday, which was her birthday. I know it was her birthday, because I saw it on facebook today. There is no use pretending anything else, as Colleen knows me too well.
I am thinking about Colleen today, and that although I did not remember her birthday yesterday, I do vividly remember the perfection of her tiny hands and fingernails hours after she was born. I remember the delight in her eyes as a toddler, her thumb in her mouth and her other arm outstretched to greet the world. Colleen never crawled. As the seventh child, she didn’t need to. She scooted about a bit and the rest of the time she was carried on someone’s hip, stretching her arm out imperiously to indicate the direction she wished to go.
Colleen still greets the world with delight, and after she started walking, she never stopped running.
She is exuberant, elegant, and extraordinary, this little sister of mine.
On this day after Colleen’s birthday, I am grateful for the many gifts that she has given me. Thank you, little sister, for teaching me to sing soft lullabies to tired toddlers curled in a pile of blankets. Thank you for teaching me to take long walks with little children, taking time to really see the huge silvery moon hanging over the woods on a snowy evening and the way the clouds roll in slowly over the ridge.
Thank you for playing dress up as a small child, and as a beautiful girl, and for running through the garden in silken rags at any age.
Thank you for the poem you wrote and gave to me at my wedding, when you were a bridesmaid in a vintage ballgown…
The poem that made me cry for an hour, until my new husband said “Kate! It’s your wedding! You are supposed to be happy!” and I tried to explain through my tears that I was.
Thank you for being so happy, and for bringing so much joy and music and laughter into our family.
Thank you for being my little sister, and for teaching me so much.