Like the first float to make its way down the street in a parade, comes my mom. She strolls dignified, displaying a close-lipped smile. Mom pushes what looks like a box that I keep my toys in on top of a cart on wheels. “Mom!” Ashton and I yell, not minding the ‘inside-voice’ dad told us to have just minutes before. When she sees us, she turns, and this time, she’s smiling with her teeth. Of course, I’m glad to see mom, but what’s in the box? I grab the edge and use my tippy-toes to see over the edge of the box on wheels. Inside, it’s my baby sister. Or maybe it’s just a doll? Whatever it is, it’s so big. She’s sleeping, mouth shut, eyes closed. It looks like she took the shape of the box; like someone had to forcefully press her down in, and there is not a centimeter of extra space. The perfect baby skin that was exposed smelled like soap, but the rest of her was tucked under a thin blanket. What am I supposed to do with this new human being? How is this benefiting me, my four year old self wondered. What can I gain from sharing my life with this big-headed baby?
I gained the role of a middle child, the sibling that receives the least attention; the minute my mom explained that I should be excited that I will soon have a new sibling. “When that baby comes out, I’m going to punch it, and kick it, and punch it, and kick it,” probably didn’t serve as the happy reaction that is usually given under these circumstances. Then, I gained a quiet, peaceful, round-faced, little sister who was so sweet I just wanted to squeeze; on August 22nd, 2005, in the same hospital that I’d been born in just a few months after that announcement. Shortly after, I gained a new life-like doll that actually cried and laughed and squirmed and drank from a bottle; anytime I felt like playing with Ava in the first few months of my new sisters’ existence. Pretending to be as motherly as a four year old could be, and that’s better than the physical abuse I had intended on months before.
After a while, I gained a make-believe puppy to train; when Ava’s rocking back and forth on her hands and knees finally turned into crawling. There she was on our ratty, matted down carpet; making us itch with anticipation that she’d make a move. Being as brilliant as he was, dad unwrapped that aluminum foil and revealed a strawberry Poptart, which immediately grabbed Ava’s attention. Towards the artificially flavored pastry she went, crawling. Now, I was not just a big sister, but having learned mobility, a coach in baby exercise. Next, I gained a shadow that hobbled behind me on chubby, wobbly legs and tiny feet; the second that Ava learned to walk and followed me around the house like a caboose behind a train.
Quickly, I gained someone to argue with about all of the pointless things; at about the age of three, whenever she discovered her quarrelsome nature and liked to exercise the satisfaction of being right. Disputes about who’s who, what’s what, when’s this, where’s that. I’d walk away from these short-lived battles with faint bruises and wimpy scratches that didn’t do justice to show my efforts in coming out on top. One time, I gained a partner to share the sleeping bag perched at the top of the stairs ready for take-off; that night we tried to impress our babysitter with our outrageous ideas of fun. Thirteen stairs seem a lot steeper when you’re teetering on the top. Slowly pushing ourselves over the edge and catching intense speed as the slick sleeping bad zipped over the soft carpet. Bouncing up and down with each stair and crashing into each other as we hit the ground just seconds later. Thankfully, I gained a companion to fill in the empty seat of the roller coaster that I’d been waiting to ride; the first time in Disney World in February of 2009, and not to forget all of other coasters in the years to follow. It’s nice to have someone to scream with; especially since a thirty-some year old farmer doesn’t scare as easily as a little girl while plummeting down hills and circling upside down on the twists and turns of the rides. Post-ride we could share the giggles and weak-legged walk after getting off and hurriedly circling back in line to go again. Unfortunately, I gain a callous critic to tell me how badly I’ve messed up while baking some cookies or cooking some macaroni and cheese; every time I was brave enough to test my talents in the kitchen. I can always rely on Ava to tell me the truth that cookies aren’t supposed to taste salty or that noodles aren’t supposed to be crunchy.
I often gain someone to compare my looks to, regardless of the fact that she is much younger and not at the same level of maturity as me; when I realized Ava isn’t just a preschooler with missing teeth and messy hair. Envying the way her blonde hair now looks cute just swept back in a ponytail, or how well her amateur hand can put on the right amount of mascara and lip gloss to highlight her best features. I gain a character to laugh at until my sides hurt and tears roll down my cheeks; all the time. Listening to her sing or watching her dance; ranting a story in much detail, or imitating an actor in a movie. Ava presents her actions with loads of energy because she knows she’s funny and will be expecting your full attention. I gain a groupie to share the front seat of my car with and belt out the next song that 99.7 FM radio plays; in the mornings when Ava is running late and depends on me as her ride to school.
The status of the beloved youngest child, less pain from the slaps and hits from what would be non-existent fights. A piano bench only holding my music, less fruit snack wrappers to pick up off the floor, counters, couches, and tables. Feelings that wouldn’t have been hurt so many times, no pretty face to want to measure up to. These are all the things that I would have, or wouldn’t have, if I never had to deal with Ava. How boring. I’ve was provided with laughs, lessons learned, a backbone, appreciation, healthy aggravation, and most importantly valued memories when I gained a sister.