I had my reservations about entering the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
My grandmother coerced me into entering the program. Right off the bat, we were interviewed, made to watch a safety video and given a questionnaire. Honestly, I had no idea what my interests were and checked just about everything on that “interests” and “things I'd be interested in trying” list.
When the day came to finally meet my Big Sister, I didn't know what to expect, and I wasn't very enthusiastic. To this day, both my Big Sister and I remember the fit of crying we did together in the parking lot of Scandia after our first outing.
I wasn't an easy child. At the age of seven, I was detached and withdrawn. I had a lot of bottled-up emotions, and I had trouble expressing myself. This gave my new Big Sister quite a challenge.
She was strong for sticking with me. She could have cut her losses and asked for another Little Sister or even quit, but she toughed it out and tried her best. My Big Sister is a survivor and a strong, independent woman — someone to look up to.
One of my favourite things was the annual ski trip we would take. Every year, when the cold started to take over, I would look forward to spending time with her and the mountain snow. She was the first person to make hiking fun.
I miss Sasha, her black lab who was the sweetest dog and an excellent outdoors buddy. I'll never forget our camping trip; even though it was cold, the nearby lake was strangely warm, and later we became utterly washed out by the rain. We huddled in the tent all night, trying not to think about peeing nor how cold is was, waiting for it to clear so we could leave. Yet it still makes me smile and laugh to remember.
I remember going to the theme park with my Big Sister, her friend, and his little brother, who I had a crush on and trying desperately not to show it. (Still not sure if I was successful at it or not, but who ever is?)
I remember all our trips, actually, including the one to Las Vegas, where I received my first sunburn while visiting her family. Her mother taught me how to crochet, which evolved into an interest in knitting. Though there weren't many places for a child to enjoy in Las Vegas, my Big Sister tried her best to entertain me.
After she moved to D.C., visiting her there was quite exciting. Even my grandmother's anxiety, which usually ends up causing spill-over collateral damage, didn't ruin the trip thanks to all the fun she planned in advanced.
However, most of all, I remember how she made growing up more enjoyable.
The faerie she painted and glazed for me still sits on my shelf. I remember leaving the ceramic shop, after an evening well spent, feeling uplifted. After that, I stuck with acrylics even when not painting ceramics. I still love their smell.
Even when she moved a few hours away, she still made a point to come up and visit or spend time with me. She had no obligation to see me, but still wanted to. That, to an anti-social child, was a big deal.
While I might not have given it much thought as a child, I do now and am grateful that she had such a beautifully kind heart. There were a lot of things I would have missed out on if she wasn't my Big Sister. I would probably still be opposed to being in nature, finding hotels to be the equivalent of camping (like my grandmother does). I would have missed out on the snow and skiing until the eighth-grade ski trip, where I would have probably spent all my time sitting out on the sidelines.
Though we're long out of the program, we still keep in touch and have had the occasional out-of-state trip to visit. While the ski trips have stopped, our love and care for one another has bonded in sisterhood. It was truly a blessing to see her walk down the aisle and into the arms of her love.
All in all, I'm glad that I was able to meet my Big Sister. She gave me fond memories and insight into what siblings could be like. Together, in our own ways, we grew and learned from one another. She was given a brutal lesson in tolerance, understanding, and patience, while I was given one in love, friendship, empathy, and adventure. My Big Sister is lovely, inside and out, and I love her.
At the risk of sounding preachy, I feel the program could be helpful to any only child or even a child who feels alone. While such a bond as the one I have with my Big Sister is not guaranteed, I know that it sure helped me when I was feeling alone and my wants went unheard. She really did everything she could to try to make my time enjoyable and do things that would make me happy.
There is nothing I can do to repay her for all that she's done for me, but I guess that's what it means to be a family.