My small body and head of tangled blonde hair were hunched over the breakfast table as my mom painstakingly combed out my knotted locks. The kitchen smelled of the usual black coffee and toast. With sleep in our eyes, we sat and watched the bleak, Seattle rain drizzle down the windows. Barely awake, my older sister Leslie, sat directly across from me, and explained how butter was the best topping for Eggo waffles. I asked my sister why she preferred butter to peanut butter on her waffles. She responded by saying that butter was the “original” topping because that’s what appeared on the classic Eggo waffle box. From that day forward, I switched to butter on my waffles because that’s what Leslie did and she seemed so certain about it.
Those Monday mornings at the kitchen table proved to be like any other. I did not realize it at the time, but each day I learned something new from her. Leslie taught me how to play poker and how to successfully maneuver my car through my tiny alley without scraping the side of our neighbor’s garage. The hours spent on our white carpet playing Polly Pockets or the bruises I had collected from playing soccer in my alley have served as memories that guided me through my childhood.
As we grew from tiny toddlers to moody middle schoolers, I realized that on some days where we would play for hours, while on other days, she did not want to talk to me at all. She was becoming more independent and I was not there yet. Her struggles were different from the ones I was going through in elementary school. While she was dealing with who to sit with at lunch, I was just trying to make the recess kickball team. It was not until high school that we saw each other as equals sharing in similar experiences. As the time neared, I dreaded the thought of Leslie going to college because I knew that would mean that I would be on my own. I would not have someone to let me rant, or give me the advice I needed to hear when faced with a problem. No longer would I have someone to go get frozen yogurt with in the middle of night or watch trashy reality television on Sunday evenings.
On the morning she left for college, I stood barefoot in my pajamas outside my house waiting for the cab to arrive. The pink sun was barely peaking over the trees as the car arrived. As the car pulled up I felt my stomach drop. I gave my last teary hug goodbye and then watched the car disappear down my street.
I have always thought that my identity was shaped from how I see the world. I thought that the results of my actions were a reflection of who I am, but in reality I have learned the most about myself from others. The relationship I have with my sister has taught me that life is not an individual journey; people come and go and new complications arise just when you thought you had things figured out. The laughs we exchanged at the breakfast table have kept me warm. My sister’s advice has kept me moving forward and the butter on the waffles reminds me that I always have someone guiding me through life. Though I don’t see her every day, we make it through the difficult times together, even at 2,000 miles away. I could only hope that I could have the same kind of influence on someone else like she has for me.