I am sorry that you’ve never known what it is to have an older sister. Mothers and fathers and grandparents may have failed you in your short nine years, but an older sister never even got a chance to do that. I’m sorry that you’ve never been in on the tradition of watching Little Women when it gets cold or passing each other notes between our rooms or secret codes for knocking on the door. I’m sorry that there haven’t been sororal piggy-back rides or late night talks or tickle fights. I’m sorry that you’ve been so solitary while we’ve been so together.
Can you believe that I already miss you and you’re just in the next room? It’s after midnight, but I bet you’re still listening to my keys clacking. I just tucked you into your covers to next to Jubilee (tonight is the kind of night that calls for doubling up next to someone warm) and you asked me to sing for you. Meggie, a big sister is someone who sings you lullabies on nights when Mommy is crying. We miss you already.
You’ve been through more in the past nine years than I might go through in my whole life, yet I see you smiling through the tears. I see you forgiving and learning to hold your own temper. I see you coping like a pro. You astound me.
You have this tender heart and strong moral compass and I wonder who in the world ever pointed you North in your life? Every Christmas when you get a year older, you’ve looked back on a year of chaos and turmoil. Role models seem to be scarce and yet your heart is so strong. You are something I never thought I’d see and you’ve singlehandedly restored my hope in humanity.
I sometimes wish you were born into my family and I could’ve known you and loved you your whole life, but then you wouldn’t be Meggie. And we wouldn’t be us. I wish I could see the front of this embroidery work the Lord is stitching, because from under here, everything looks like chance and loose ends. From under here I cannot fathom why you would need to go through what you have, but God knows.
I told you today while we both cried at the kitchen table that someday we’ll look back and hardly be able to remember this sad time. Before I know it, you’ll be a lovely American lady and I will wrack my brain for the feeling of your soft skin and the smell of your shiny hair. I want us both to remember that you call your freckles “sparkles” and say that they’re a gift from the sun who loves you. You have a little up-turned nose and clear hazel eyes and the shiniest hair I ever saw. You have little square hands and feet and a gap between your two front teeth that makes you smile with your mouth closed, but we sometimes catch your real smile and it’s electric. Oh, how we love you.
I feel fear grip my heart because I think I’m about to push fast-forward on the best movie I’ve ever watched and next time I see you, the credits will be rolling on your childhood. I pray it’s not long until you’re here for good, part of the family, safe.
Stay small, Meggie. Stay small and sweet and soft. Stay silly and bright and brave. Be just like this when you come home and be just like this the rest of your life, because I think you’re positively perfect just the way you are.
Tomorrow you and Mommy and Daddy will fly out. You will spend one more night together in Chicago and then you’re off. Across the sea, the miles, the barrier between us. You’ll be back to the orphanage and the boarding school, life without a family. That’s what feels like sand paper going down my throat. You could’ve lived your whole life without knowing the love we cannot help but lavish on you. How many more Meggies are out there tonight, just praying that someone would stroke their hair and sing “I see the moon” before drifting off to sleep?
I didn’t know I wanted another sister. I didn’t know I could love another the way I love the ones I already had. But oh how I do. You’re like a dream of a girl from a book. You are the flourish at the end of our family name. I love you, Meggie-Moo. Hurry home.