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I squint as the early morning sun peaks through the cracks of my dusty blinds. After glancing at the clock, I pull the blanket off of my warm body. As my feet land on the soft, carpeted floor, a thought suddenly hits me. It’s the first day of school. Excitement and anxiousness fill me as I rush to pick out my outfit. Unsure of my decision, I take a few steps toward the room across from mine when I realize no one is in there to help me. My heart sinks as I reluctantly cross back over the hallway to my room. As I continue to get ready, new thoughts fill my head and that depressing realization is pushed to the back of my mind.
I’m already running late, but my brother and I can’t leave the house without a picture. Half annoyed, I follow my mom and brother outside for the “annual first day of school picture.” I smile and act happy, but inside I feel less than cheerful as she snaps a few shots of us on the porch. The thought passes through my mind again as I look at the pictures. Something is missing in the photo. A space that once held the face of a happy girl, excited for the first day of school is now vanished. That happy girl isn’t home. She had her share of “first day of school pictures” and is now starting a different “new day.”
I can still remember the day that Bethany left for college. It was a beautiful August day. The air was cooled with a light breeze and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I was packing for a youth group retreat when I realized it was that time: the time that Bethany leaves for Eastern University. I started to choke up as I laid my clothes and Bible in my bag. I couldn’t hold back any longer and the warm, salty tears broke loose from my eyes like a dam. I hadn’t seen Bethany since the night before and I was leaving for the retreat before she got home. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having her around. Not seeing her again for another month didn’t satisfy me so I picked up my bag and headed for the car. As I pulled out of the driveway, I thought back over the times I’ve spent with Bethany.
I was five and she was six. I wanted to be exactly like her. We ran around our living room that was filled with old couches and a small TV. With my grandma, mom and dad watching, we put on a show. Our small drawing table in the middle of the room served as a stage for us to stand on. One at a time, we climbed up on the table and sang our song. “…skittle-marinki-dinki-dink… skittle marki-do… I love you.” Laughter filled the house and we continued for hours to sing songs and make motions. Simple times made the best memories.
Times weren’t always as happy as the night we put on our show. Like most sisters, we had our share of fights, arguments and putting each other through pure torture. One night when our dad was remodeling our basement, Bethany and I looked for something to do. Our options were limited because Mom was doing. Our brother, Mark, was too young at the time to have any fun with, so Bethany decided that the two of us would play musical chairs. Thrilled to play a game, I immediately accepted the challenge.
We decided to use Dad’s workbench as our chair. Bethany insisted that we play at the landing above the uncarpeted, wooden steps leading to the basement, but I encouraged her to move the game to the living room. She was older, and like the older siblings do, she convinced me otherwise.
We began to play and, being the older sister, she was the one singing the song and deciding when to stop. I rounded the corner of the chair facing the steps, as she stopped singing. I sat immediately. Bethany, on the other side of the chair, pushed my back which sent me sprawling down the hard steps until I reached the bottom and hit the cement floor. Pain surged through my body as I lay motionless. Fortunately I suffered only minor bruises.
I laughed as the thoughts consumed me. The fights seemed less traumatic than at the time. The memories became even more vivid over the more recent years.
Thinking about the times we spent in the car brought a smile to my face. I remembered one day as clearly as a freshly windexed window. The car engine rumbled and the warm, summer wind blew through the open windows. Her long brown hair whipped around her head and her blue eyes sparkled with delight as we continued belting out a song at the top of our lungs. Pausing for a moment to catch my breath, I got a glimpse of the utter joy glowing on her face before I rejoined her in our loud and off-key tune. She burst into laughter as we struggled to hit the high notes of our melody. The music didn’t stop until we pulled into the driveway.
I shut off the car after parking at the house Bethany was at. Again, tears were welling up in my eyes. I caught Bethany just before she headed to the basement with her friends. I was relieved that she was alone because I didn’t want to make a scene. As soon as I saw her, I hugged her and fresh tears fell onto my cheeks. It wasn’t long before I had to leave we said our goodbyes.
When I got to the car, I sat for a few minutes, trying to collect myself. While I sat, I thought. Then it hit me. It wasn’t just the fact that she wasn’t going to be around the house, that I wouldn’t have her to talk to, or that I couldn’t have her to encourage me that upset me the most. Bethany isn’t just my sister. She’s my closest friend and the one who knows me best. She encourages me when I’m down and can make me laugh when I cry. Her support and love has helped me though so many of my struggles and I don’t know what I would do without her. The day that Bethany left for college was the day my best friend moved away.