I came to this resolution heartbreakingly late, but my first Christmas home from college is when I consciously decided I was going to be a good big sister. Before then, I was just a sister--not a bad sister, but not necessarily a good one, either. It wasn't a role I played, but a label I wore and little more.
When I reflect on this December memory of me and my new resolve, a particular photo comes to mind. In it my three youngest siblings--"the babies," as we clumped and called them well into their school-age years, were sitting up in their sleeping bags on my bedroom floor that Christmas Eve, giddy and excited as most children are on such a day. I'm sitting behind them, my arms wrapped around their sweet faces. We're all smiling.
I recall being impressed as I watched them each say their bedtime prayers that night, and the oldest of the three even writing in his journal. They were ages seven, six and five at the time, light years more mature than I was at their age, it seemed. Gosh, light years more mature than me now!
In addition to "the babies" who normally slept in their own bedrooms, I have two blond sisters that I shared that split-level bedroom loft with. We sang Silent Night at least three times that night as we laid in our beds, taking turns doing the descant part that our aunt had taught me so many years before:
Through the silent night the town is sleeping;
The sheep are safe within the fold,
They're safe from danger, fear and cold.
Silent, silent night.
Holy, holy night.
Sleep in peace.
Silent, holy night!
Sleep in peace.
As we sang, I internally wished we'd all sleep in peace that winter's night, most of us all together in my bedroom, anxiously awaiting Christmas morning. I say "most of us" because I have another brother, too. I'm the oldest of seven kids and the brother missing from my bedroom that night is just two years younger than me.
A seventeen-year-old at the time, he preferred the comforts of his own bed to sleeping on the hard floor of my bedroom, crammed. I don't blame him. Besides, if I had to pick a sibling up until then who I had been a decent sister too, I'd pick him. I considered him one of my dearest friends at the time. I excused him from that particular slumber party.
I'm married with two children of my own now, but rarely does a December pass by that I don't think of that Christmas Eve when I decided to change--my gift to Jesus that year. Now "the babies" are all practically teenagers, my sisters are college girls and my brother just younger than me lives clear across the country.
Eight years later, the seven of us are naturally in completely different stages of life. The "babies" have changed so much over the years that I feel like a stranger sister all over again. I can't believe the things my mom tells me about them. Lissie loves acting and can command center stage without the slightest hint of nervousness? Christian sang a song he wrote in front of hundreds of his peers as he strummed his guitar? Bryant got online and bought himself some name-brand clothes with his allowance--my baby brother is into how he looks? It's all baffling.
I can hardly believe the stories, but you better believe I'm anxious to go home to Heidelberg this Christmas and wrap them in my arms and get to know them all over again. I'll recall the Christmas Eve when I decided to take them into my life. My sisters and I will sing Silent Night and my brother will be there, too, I hope. All of us.
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