I'm not really good at remembering things relating to the nitty gritty details of my life.
I'm great with useless trivia. Ask me what floor in Hogwarts Harry's (x) class is in and I'll tell you without the aid of Google, but when it comes to my life I forget lots of things. I listen to my grandparents recount stories of their childhood and think: "Yup. I'll never be able to do that."
But I will be able to tell them one story with utter clarity:
I'm eleven. I'm sitting at the kitchen table on a chair facing the living room and right next to the doors leading to the patio, holding a hand-made card I found at the end of a scavenger hunt mom arranged for us letting us know that the last, surprise baby in our family would give me a long awaited sister. I burst into tears. (Jared, across from me, does the same, but for completely different reasons.) A girl! My sister!
I have lots of memories leading up to when she was born. I remember sitting in the basement and voting on what name we would give her (only stipulation: It needs to start with "A", as the pattern of naming Newman children to that point had coincidentally ended on a J-A-J pattern thus far, and that would be cool.)
I remember picking out fabric to make her baby blanket (which I insisted on making) and, consequently, also remember feeling utterly annoyed at every other blanket gift she was given. She could have all the clothes and toys and diapers she wanted but she had to like my blanket best. She just did.
I remember driving to the hospital to go get her with my grandparents, both of whom got increasingly frustrated as they tried to navigate down town (which isn't that big but made more complicated by one way streets). We could see the hospital, we just couldn't GET THERE. I was in the back clutching her blanket on my lap.
I have memories after she was born too. Like the timer we had to set at home to take turns holding her because everyone wanted to. Like one of the first times I was left to babysit her and how much I loved the time I had to just sit and be with her. Like watching her in her first dance recital. Like that time mom accidentally shaved a patch in her head (oops.) Like endless rounds of "In the Mood" and "Shipoopi". Like Blue's Clues and the curious little "uhhhA?!" and "All gone!"
Things get a little foggy after that - because I moved away. And a thousand miles is a long distance to travel for a weekend visit. My long awaited sister and friend was here, and I left her.
I remember the first time I came home, seeing her down at the end of the hall in the airport. She immediately burst into tears and ran towards me. We're going to be fine, I thought.
And we were, for a while. It was easy, at least for me, when Alli was little. It wasn't until a few years ago when I realized she wasn't so little any more that I felt the pain of lost time. I missed it, I thought. She grew up and I missed it.
The last few years have meant trying harder to get to know the young woman that Alli has become. We're a little different - she's far more emotionally open than I am. I have a hard time lying about what I'm thinking, but I bottle it up. Christmas morning is a series of polite thank you's from me, even if it's a gift I'm particularly excited about. It means that sometimes people see me as cold or aloof when I'm really not. Alli leaves no one in doubt of her emotions. She feels deeply and openly - squealing with delight and crying over the pain of someone else. She's as soft hearted and kind as they come in how she loves and reaches out to others. She's more giddy-girly than I ever was.
What's been so rewarding to see as Alli has grown up, though, is utter relief that we may not be quite so different after all - home for Christmas this last year, I saw her roll her eyes at jokes from Dad she didn't like the exact way that I used to. She loves music and performing. She has a deeply ingrained desire to do what's right and good.
So, Alli - on your birthday (especially since I can't be there), I want you to know and never forget that it kills me that I'm missing so much time with you. It's cruel, really - that I waited so long and only got six precious years with you before I left home - years you probably can't even remember. Cruel that now we're old enough to really enjoy and get to know one another, you still live so far away. But your being older does come with perks - I'm so glad that we're both getting better at calling and talking and texting each other. I love that time. I'm excited that we get so much face to face time this summer. I'm proud of you and how hard you've worked to overcome the challenges you've faced. You are a great example to me, Alli - and best of all - you are mine! Happy Birthday, sweet sister. I sure love you.