I was twelve at the time. It was nerve-wracking, standing there in the hospital room, the monitor tracking my mom’s pulse in little blue lights. Dad brought my small hand to her belly, and I felt the heat, and then, the small kick. I smiled and sat at her side. Nurses came and went, as frequently as the minutes did. It’s all very blurry now. I remember only my mother’s face, pale, eyes shut, and my father’s hand in hers. I remember the nurse standing at the base of the bed, inviting me to see the small head of my sister and her mop of damp hair. I remember coming, slowly, hesitantly, my soul dancing. I remember my sister’s tiny body, naked and warm, lying on the scale, crying. I remember the feeling of ink on my skin as the nurse stamped the baby’s footprint on my arm.
It’s been five years since those memories. Five years since I held the bottle to her mouth or smelled baby’s breath on her lips. Now, I watch her count pennies and scrawl my name on napkins. I see her shape mud into pies and I help her lay flowers in small fairy gardens. When I go off to a new adventure, a new school, I will miss most of all her laugh in the morning, her whispered I love you’s, her tiny hand clutching my own. I will miss her muddy fingers, her careless smile, the songs she sings in my ear. My father once told me that those five years are all I’ve got. Those years are mine to create the memories she will have forever. When I first heard those words, I despaired. Five years is hardly enough time to leave your impact on a young heart. Going off to college is a frightening adventure, one which will take me away from my dearest loves. So perhaps it is not dear little Ellie who has shaped my character the most. Perhaps it is the thought of leaving her. As St. Augustine wrote, “Our character is usually judged not from what we know, but from what we love.” The five years I have with her taught me to make memories, to play in the mud, and to hear her happy laugh as many times as I could.