By Kathleen, #7

 

It was dinnertime at our house. Spaghetti night. This meant bright red sauce ready to stain any previously-glowing shirt, long noodles flipping off forks, and general messiness all-around.

Mom always made sure we had napkins ready and watched all of us to make sure we knew how to twirl the spaghetti onto our forks. However, as a big sister, I still had my eye on my youngest sibling. She was always forgetting to tuck her long hair behind her shoulders before leaning over her plate or to roll up her usually too-long sleeves from her little wrists. Watching her out of the corner of my eye after the mealtime prayer, I saw that she was once again digging in without taking the proper precautions.

I quickly jumped up from my chair and moved behind her before she could make a mess. I pulled her sleeves up her arms, which were like spaghetti noodles themselves, and pulled her hair out of the way behind her back. As the seven-year-old grinned at her forgetfulness and thanked me, I noticed Mom quietly smiling at us.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing, you just… looked very motherly right then.”

I blinked and looked down at my small hands, still wrapped around my sister’s hair. “Oh. Really?”

The rest of suppertime passed without any especially memorable moments, but I have never forgotten the sensation of realizing I had just taken care of my little sister. Without grumbling, without calling her silly, I had seen what needed to be done and taken care of her.

Without ever letting us know, Mom and Dad had taught us all to look after each other. When my younger brother and sister were especially little, I was expected to make sure they had their lunch or breakfast all set before making my own. After a while, it became instinct.

While crossing a street or moving around a parking lot, Mom would call out, “Everybody have a hand?” Each of the older ones would immediately grab hold of a set of small fingers and guide the youngest kids to safety.

 

 

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Because these lessons of taking care of the littlest became so ingrained in me, I grew to be very protective of my younger siblings. Even now, when they are definitely old enough to take care of themselves at lunchtime or in a parking lot, I feel like I should be grilling a peanut butter sandwich or grabbing a little hand.

There are still moments in the grocery store when I feel the need to wrap my fingers around my little brother’s, just to remember what it feels like to have someone depending on me.

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