When I was seventeen years old I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and go to a college away from momma and daddy. I was absolutely sure that I was ready to take on the world. I did graduate and moved a short distance away to begin my new life. I turned eighteen shortly after arriving at school and got to vote in my first ever presidential election that year. I was officially an adult! I had so much fun being at college and away from momma and daddy that I often didn’t go to classes and I totally forgot that daddy told me to treat college like a job. And that is why at the semester break my older sister picked me up in the old station wagon and told me I had to come back home.
At the time it all seemed so normal. A nineteen year old driving for three hours to pick up an eighteen year old in the old, family station wagon. Not sure I would let my kids do that today, but she got there safely, loaded me up and we headed back home. We divided up the sack lunch she brought and I ate as I drove. We sang songs, talked, and laughed. I must have been going a little fast because with no warning at all I saw flashing lights in my mirror. My crazy sister laughed. She took out an apple and started chomping exaggeratedly while I was fishing my license out of my wallet. Then she put her feet up on the dashboard while the officer was standing by my window.
I wanted to choke her but she would smile and chomp that apple and wiggle her feet. The officer was nice and barely contained his laugh, but I still got the ticket. Four months into my adult life and I was stuck in a car with a demented older sister and I had a speeding ticket. I slowed way down because I no longer wanted to get home. I would have to explain the situation to momma and daddy and I knew they would not give credence to the part that my older sister played. I hadn’t been home in four months and I was coming home with a speeding ticket.
We dragged down the highway at the regulated 55 MPH. Our songs were not as chipper and I was still a little steamed over the ticket. As we approached the city limits she, the crazy one, turned to me and said, “Hey, some friends and I planned a party and we can go there before we get home.”
I rolled my eyes. It had been a long day. “No, I just want to go home. I am tired.”
As all big sisters do, she poked at me, “C’mon, we won’t stay long. It will be fun.”
We were in town now and she kept up the pep talk and fake smiles until I gave in.
We arrived at the party to find that it wasn’t a real party at all. It was a set-up. My sister and her friend had decided that their younger siblings should meet. So they schemed against us with the “party.” We arrived to find three or four people milling about and one totally uninterested younger brother sitting in a chair waiting to go home for the Christmas break. We mumbled “hi” to each other and he left. Really? That is who she wanted me to meet? For heaven’s sake I already had several boyfriends. I eyeballed my sister as she talked to her friends and made motions to leave. Finally, finally we left.
I tell this story to my children to emphasize the importance of school and taking care of business or momma and daddy will bring you right back home. I tell them that the world is complex and sometimes not as easy as we first imagine. I also point out to the older ones that it is not nice to torment the younger ones, especially in dire straits. And finally, I tell the story because it is how I met their daddy.
I ran into the younger brother from the party on my first day back at college and my fate was sealed. Thirty-eight years of marriage this week.
Life is still complex and I still preach to be nice to your siblings. After all, they might arrange the party that could change your life forever.