An Open Letter To My (Not So Baby) Sister As She Heads Off To College

February 28, 2019

Did you know that the hardest thing Ive ever had to do was say goodbye?

Say goodbye when I loaded that crappy, dented car and headed off to college? Watch you pick up box after box, pretending to be happy for me, because you knew thats what you were supposed to do. Be happy. For me, again.

Youve always been happy for me. Happy when I got asked to my first Homecoming dance. Happy when I brought my first boyfriend home and mom and dad actually liked him. Happy when I got straight As. Happy when I wrote my first application essay. Happy when I got my first acceptance letter. You were always happy. And I was always moving. One thing to another. Always living my life. Always leaving you behind.

Did you know that the hardest thing Ive ever had to do was watch you from that window?

Your nose pressed to the glass, our puppy between your legs, his tail wagging, hoping for a car ride.

You waved. You smiled. You wrote me a letter that I still have saved in the pages of one of my favorite journals. And I thought of you every day. Id see your face when I got dressed, a photo on my bedroom wall.

I missed you.

Youve grown up in the last few years. Youve changedyour face, your smile, the way you walk.You have become a woman. Strong. Beautiful. Confident.

I wish I could go back and erase those years I wasnt home. Hit rewind to when you and I would play on the backyard swing set together, making picnic lunches or pushing each other down the slide.

Phone calls were never enough. Texts and Skype and letters sent back and forth through snail-mail with your glittery pen and loopy handwriting. They were all special, but so far away. I wasnt there for your first Sadie Hawkins Dance. I wasnt there for your first friend breakup. I wasnt there for your first art show. Or for your first time on the Honor Role.

I hope you know I thought of you. All the time.

When I broke up with my boyfriend, I wanted to call you. When I got my first scholarship. When I was lonely.

I was always too scared. You were my little sister. You looked up to me and I didnt want to show you that I wasnt strong. You were always stronger, you know. You still are.

As you get ready to head off to your own college and pack the dented car that Ive handed down to you. As Im the face in the window, the dog curled up next to me, and you waving from the rearview, I hope you know youre not alone.

I hope you know that Im always herea phone call, a car ride, a plane, a trainno distance too big to travel.

I hope you know I love you. I love the woman youve become, bold, self-assured, smart. I hope you know I envy you.

And I hope you know youll always be my little sister. The one whose baby-walker I taped a kick me sign onto. The one whose hair I always tied in pigtails and dressed in frilly dresses. The one who I sold lemonade with at the street corner, who I dragged to the mall, who I teased about sweaty hands and made Build-A-Bears for. You might be growing up, but youll always be the one Ill want to protect. The one Ill want to be strong for.

The one whos the hardest to say goodbye to, even still.

About the Author