Coat is old (bought in Tokyo 4 years ago)
My little sister Tessa is my angel; she saved my life when she was born. I went through some traumatic experiences that left me a maladjusted, basket case of a child. My nerves were so bad, I would throw up daily and cry to the point of exhaustion — I couldn’t sleep, wanted to die, and didn’t know how to cope with my fear and anxiety. It worried my family sick. I would be remiss to overlook the role a few of my incredible teachers and counselors played in making me whole again (a story for another day, because teachers are truly superheroes), but my sister’s birth changed my whole world. It wasn’t immediate; in fact, I was angry when my mom announced her pregnancy. I think most newborns are reminiscent of tiny aliens or little old men or angry potatoes who have suddenly come to life, and rarely get attached until their personalities start to shine through. But when that time came, she was everything. She gave me a purpose. I was so enamored by her, so concerned for her well-being and constant joy that I forgot about my own problems and focused on “raising” her, much to the surprise and delight of my family. She had actual parents who doted on and cared for her, but with eleven years between us, I’ve often treated her more like a daughter and less like a sister.
My mom likes to joke that she had Tessa for me. I think, in some distant and serendipitous way, that’s one of the reasons she was born: to save me and give me a second chance to experience childhood without the suffering, and to give me a reason to hold on to that small will to live and persist when any trauma returned. Even in my happiest moments, even now that I’m free from perpetual melancholy and I walk with my shoulders upright, she is my joy.
Tomorrow, my baby sister will be 23. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that she’s an adult with a career and a serious boyfriend, but I am extraordinarily proud of her. I’d love to tell you I have something to do with it, but that’s all her. She’s kind, intelligent, ambitious, an absolute dynamo, and beautiful both inside and out. Though I wish she would’ve chosen a safer career path — she’s a firefighter/paramedic — it only makes sense that the little girl who saved my life has gone on to save countless others. Happy birthday, Tessa Marie.