An Open Letter To My Sister On Her 16th Birthday


Hey baby girl,

Happy 16th birthday! I can’t believe you’re so grown up.

You wrote the perfect heartfelt note to me on my last birthday. We were 3,000 miles apart, and celebrating without you didn’t feel quite right. I hadn’t seen you in three months, and I missed you like crazy. When I read your happy birthday Facebook message, I instantly burst into happy tears in the middle of a bar. I was blubbering, and everyone in the bar turned around to stare. It’s my turn to one-up you now. I hope you read this somewhere like fourth period geometry and have an embarrassing cry in public, too. It’s cathartic, try it. Here it goes.

Your birthday always makes me nostalgic. Grandma and I were in a hotel lobby when we first heard you were born. “You have two messages,” the concierge told us. The first told us the baby was on its way. The second announced that you were a girl. Grandma and I held hands and danced in a circle on the black and white tiled floors. “It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” we sang. I was almost five.

I didn’t quite get what it meant to be a big sister at first. Everyone cooed over you, and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought you were pretty boring for your first year or two — you didn’t walk, talk, or want to play Candy Land with me. What was the big deal? But soon, we learned to get along, and I’m so thankful we did. You’re my best friend, baby girl.

When you were little, you were effervescent, giggly, and so stubborn. You had a short, wispy bob, missing teeth, and a freckled, button nose. You looked like a kitten. Now, you look like the ultimate teenager. You have an edgy haircut and like to wear tight, striped jeans, and you’ve mastered looking totally bored at all times. You’re half an inch shorter than I am, and I refuse to believe you’ll ever grow taller. You can’t — I’m the big sister, remember?

Your transition from cute little kid to a beautiful young adult was hard. I wanted to keep you small forever. But now that you’re clearly growing up and not stopping, I’m learning to embrace it. Your preschool drawings were adorable in their own way, but it’s been incredible to watch you blossom into a real artist. I love that you can spend hours sprawled across the kitchen floor working painstakingly on a painting or a drawing. The still life you finished recently is stunning. RISD is so lucky to have you this summer. And while I was initially horrified when you told me about your first relationship — my baby is old enough to date? What?! — it’s been fascinating to see you navigate the challenges of dating in high school. You’re a great girlfriend.

I moved to New York for college almost three years ago, and it sucks that I can’t see you every day anymore. Your trips to New York are always the highlight of my month, and I’d like to remind you now of what you said on one of those trips:

“I can’t wait until our husbands both die so we can move in together!”

Me too, baby. Me too. I’m counting down the days.

Lots of love,
Your big sister

image – zenat