I met my Little Sister when she was seven. We sat in a booth and started to get to know one another over chicken with broccoli. I remember she politely made sure to empty her mouth before speaking or answering any questions. We were both hoping to make a good first impression, and even more, a lasting connection.
When I toasted, “Here’s to new friends!” this sweet second-grader looked up at me and corrected, “Here’s to sisters!” She has been a part of our family ever since.
The night we first met, August 29, 2002, the social worker from Big Brothers, Big Sisters introduced us at her house, along with her Mom. We chatted and when Samantha was comfortable (it didn’t take long), we went out together to the Chinese restaurant down the street, Sammy’s choice.
As I drove home to my family our first night together, I thought to myself, “I know she will always be a part of my life.” Ten years and an out-of-state move later, Sammy is visiting. She’ll be here for a couple of weeks as we celebrate our anniversary.
As advised through the agency, we took our time getting to know one another before introducing her to the rest of the family. We got acquainted with playground dates and homework help, just the two of us. Eventually, she came to a fall festival with us and met my husband and two children (aged three and one). Immediately, she fell into the rhythm and fabric of our still-growing family.
Samantha was there for birthday parties and Christmas tree cutting and decorating. She joined our tradition of dancing to Aaron Neville’s Soulful Christmas and stringing popcorn and cranberries. Together, we created our own new traditions, we baked cakes to celebrate half birthdays and went to “our” booth at the Chinese restaurant on our anniversary for years. On our first anniversary, the hostess sat us in our booth on her own as we grinned at each other behind her back in amazement. We toasted, “Here’s to sisters!” and ordered the same meal as we looked back on our first year.
Over the years together in New Jersey, there were fairs, carnivals, zoo trips, and performances at the community theater. There were physical activities like hiking, ice skating and roller skating. Once we counted the number of laps we looped (75 and blisters to match). There were church mornings, camping trips, craft projects, strawberry picking and a new baby.
Our third baby was born about a year and a half after Sammy joined our family. Sam held her, entertained her, loved her, and has been a part of Anna’s life from the start, her christening, her first birthday party and her first steps.
Samantha was with us many times in a week. My children always talked about their big sister and I would often be questioned about having another child. Samantha appears throughout our family photo albums in the snapshots of daily living and in the grander moments of life.
At our house, Sam had chores and followed our rules. Like our kids, Sammy had to taste every new food on her plate (and she couldn’t say yuck!), she ended up loving salmon, Swiss chard and zucchini bread and would ask her Mom to make them.
She adored our kids as her siblings and played hide and seek, blew bubbles, built and painted along side them. She tolerated being a jungle gym and child-spinner extraordinaire. They would also sometimes bicker as siblings do, but they all love each other in the way that siblings do.
My husband became a positive male role model in her life and can talk to her about things in a different way, a guy way. By default, he became her Big Brother, but through love, they truly found a special connection.
We spent nearly four years in neighboring towns and with very regular time together, then in 2006, a job took us from New Jersey to Rhode Island. Sharing that move with Sammy was tough, she really struggled with it and initially even tried to pull back from us in anticipation of the separation, but she would always be a part of our lives, and we made the most of our last months nearby. For our send-off dinner, the whole family joined us at our Chinese restaurant.
We settled in to our new community and Sammy came for a visit right away. In the ensuing we went back to see her, too. I made the trip to celebrate her 8th grade graduation and was honored to have one of the coveted tickets to the ceremony.
Now with the conveniences of technology, we text, call and catch up on FaceBook. She’s a teenager, so even with texting, she’s not always easy to reach, but when we talk, it’s comfortable and easy. Our topics of conversation have grown and deepened as Sammy has matured, but we also indulge in silliness and reminiscences. Sammy still always says, “I love you more,” then hangs up on me before I can respond and when we’re together, we laugh our way through the scrapbook we made.
We are savoring this visit and fitting in a baseball game, the beach and a camping trip. We joke that she’s entered another time zone here as she falls into our schedule. She goes to sleep earlier and wakes up much earlier than usual; the kids want their big sister awake with them as soon as they rise.
I’m so grateful for the match ten years ago that brought us together. That instinctual prophecy I had on our first night has come true. Samantha will always be a part, a very special and meaningful part, of our lives.