I don’t know what her favorite food is, and her favorite color could be anything. When she was growing up, I wasn’t one of the fans watching her curve softball pitches, and my face wasn’t among the crowd rallying behind her at tennis matches, not because I didn’t want to, but because I was so much older than my sister.
Before Lindsay was born, the Ellis household consisted of two parents, three brothers, and four sisters. Each kid was barely older than the next. Before Lindsay, our parents put us, sisters, into sets, the ‘big girls’ and the ‘little girls.’
Then Lindsay was born. Her very existence was sheer magic. Immediately, I loved her, and I took her well-being personally.
Lindsay took permanent residence on my right hip until she was five years old. She slept with me every night, even though we didn’t share a room. I took her everywhere with me and called her “LaRoo.” But it didn’t last long.
When I was eighteen years old, I felt the pull of adulthood and itched for the adventure of a life of my own. I went to a University located three hours away from home and left Lindsay behind.
Then, I was married and had two kids. I had a mortgage, soccer practice carpools, and Halloween costumes to make. The further I moved forward, the more significant our age gap seemed to be until suddenly, I didn’t know Lindsay anymore. This is what happens to families with a large age difference between them. The result is accidental neglect and cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is when two opposing ideas are simultaneously held. Neither view is stronger than the other, and so the ideas battle each other, seeping out in unusual ways, slipping unconsciously into every day.
Although it is evident that she is an adult now, among our siblings, Lindsay is called “Little Lindsay.” If ever there is a spontaneous moment and the Ellis brood decides to go to dinner or a movie, someone will ask, “Lindsay, do you have a sweater?” before we get in the car.
It doesn’t matter that Lindsay is in her thirties, has a college degree, is married, and has three kids. It seems she is never old enough or capable enough, that’s because she is the baby of the family.
While writing tributes to my siblings this holiday season, I realized that I had very few shared experiences with Lindsay when we were both children. I also recognized that I might not be the only one. This led to the realization that my siblings and I don’t always treat our younger sister as an adult. I wanted to understand why, and this is what I discovered–
The reason for our cognitive dissonance is because we are so much older. From the eldest child, Jeremy, down to the youngest, Lindsay, there is a span of eighteen years. We saw Lindsay as a baby, and then we moved on to develop ourselves into grownups. Even though Lindsay followed this same path, nobody was around to see it! This creates a massive gap between the little kid we knew and the adult we see now. But it doesn’t have to stay like this!
I want to apologize to my sister. I hadn’t meant to condescend or underestimate her. My goal was never to be offensive or disparage the fantastic person Lindsay is. The woman can revamp a laundry room, swap out cabinets, make furniture out of old metal Army trunks, and as an elementary school Art specialist, teaches technique and art history!
She is amazing!
Over the last few years, the ‘big girls’ and the ‘little girls’ sets have dissolved into a single group, ‘the sisters’, and I’m proud to say that Lindsay is one of us.
We go on sister trips once a year and celebrate our birthdays together. I love it, and I love becoming one of Lindsay’s peers, having in-depth discussions, and sharing ideas. I know I can’t get back those years I neglected, but I’m trying to make a stronger connection to Lindsay than I ever had before.
I still don’t know Lindsay’s favorite kind of food. However, I do know she does not like the food on her plate to touch. No, back then, I wasn’t one of the fans watching from the bleachers, but I am a huge fan of hers watching as she mothers her kids, and I rally behind and support her one hundred percent.
And I am surprised to realize something else suddenly. Once upon a time, I called my sister Lindsay, LaRoo, but now I call her my friend.
I love you, Lindsay!