(I originally wrote this to give to Rylie and Jayna for Christmas as part of my family's tradition of giving a gift that doesn't cost anything.)
From the first time we told Hayleigh that we were going to be having another baby, she insisted that it was a sister, not just a girl, a sister. We told her that there was a good chance that it would be another boy, another brother…and that was okay…right? She never really entertained the possibility of another brother. She told me once “I already have a brother.” As in, “Mommy, why would I need another one?!” It is not that she doesn’t just love Braxton. She does. I am usually impressed and my heart is warmed by how well they play together, by the mutual adoration they have for one another. But it was like something was missing from Hayleigh’s little world, and that something was a sister. When we found out at 18 weeks pregnant that we would be having a girl, it was as if we were telling Hayleigh something she had known in her heart all along and yet as if we were telling her the greatest news of her life thus far. And in fact, we probably were. We weren’t just having a girl. We were having a sister.
The excitement and anticipation that overflowed out of her for the next months was truly nothing short of beautiful. On numerous occasions it made me cry at the depth of her emotions surrounding Royce. She genuinely loved her without having ever met her. She would talk to her through the walls of my stomach, making plans about what they would do together and telling her how much she loved her. She even insisted that Royce had responded to her saying “I love you too, Hayleigh-my big sister.”
We had told Hayleigh that Royce would be born sometime around Thanksgiving, probably a little bit after. On Thanksgiving morning Hayleigh was especially excited and we soon learned why. In her three year old mind a little after Thanksgiving meant that Royce would be born right after we ate dinner. When we told her that Royce was probably not coming that day she just started to cry-not a temper tantrum but her “grown up” cry where she tries to hold it back but she can’t because she is so overwhelmed with sadness. Oh my heart broke for her little heart as she sat in my arms on my bed saying over and over “I just want to meet my sister”.
And then they did meet.
I watched Hayleigh’s life change forever. Two girls. One oozing pure unadulterated joy, the other still contentedly unaware of the magnitude of the moment. Two girls whose lives are forever intertwined.
Will Royce admire her Big Sis? Will she come to Hayleigh for advice and to share her secrets? Will they play house or go shopping together or stay up late into the night giggling at jokes they only they can understand? When they have grown up and moved away will they return to fill our living room with the memories and laughter of sisters?
All these thoughts and more flooded my head as I watched them meet in a moment that can never be duplicated. It was a moment filled with such importance. However their relationship takes shape, their lives are woven together-as siblings, but also as sisters. Despite any distance-physical or otherwise- there is no bond quite like that of a sister.
Growing up with my younger sisters has shaped me in ways that I can only begin to recount. From the years of absurd and intricate games of pretend, to the lung busting renditions of Mulan and Fiddler on the Roof songs, from the car rides and family vacations, to the nights spent all three of us sleeping in my room on two beds pushed together (I remember always falling down the crack between the beds but never caring too much because I had a sister on either side of me. I also remember not being able to fall asleep until I knew they were both asleep and I could hear their steady breathing.). From the giggles of belly laughter to the sobs of heartache and disappointment, no one can know you quite like a sister. And no one can touch you quite the way a sister can. It is a bond that withstands whatever life seems to throw at it. And I know because over the years my sisters and I have had more stuff thrown at us than we cared to imagine during the days of playing house. Just as life, it is not always pretty-this bond of sisterhood. Yet in the the ugliness of life and the grit of reality there is beauty even in the most tarnished people. For me a good deal of that beauty springs from the complexity and the loveliness of sisterhood.
As Peter handed Royce to Hayleigh for the first time, and Hayleigh’s face exuded the overflow of more excitement and joy than her little heart could hold, I could not help but feel as if we were giving her a gift. To Hayleigh in that moment it was the long awaited sister all swaddled up in a bundle like the sweetest of Christmas gifts, but to me I knew the gift was something so much more, something intangible, something never ending. I feel as if they were both given a gift that day. They were given each other. I don’t know much of anything about what their future holds, but I do know this: this Christmas season God gave Hayleigh and Royce a special gift that no matter what will keep on giving. It is the same gift that I am especially thankful to have in my life this year-not just girls but sisters.