Birferness, Dear Sister

Though my little sister has been quoting the following bit of dialogue from "When Harry Met Sally" for much longer than eight years, eight years ago today it would have worked perfectly:

SALLY: And I'm gonna be 40!

HARRY: When?

SALLY: Someday!

HARRY: In eight years.

SALLY: But it's there!

Today, it's no longer there. Today, it is here. Today, my little sister--my baby sister--is 40 years old.

Aging is a funny thing. Back in my late 20s and early 30s, I had conversations with friends in which we agreed that, though we had jobs and paid rent and stuff, we were still waiting to feel like we'd actually become adults.

40 was the age when I finally gave up on telling shopclerks and waitstaff to stop calling me "sir." I couldn't deny the obvious reciprocality: I must look as old in their eyes as they looked young in mine. They had ceased to be my contemporaries.

They were telling me, in guileless clarity, that somewhere along the way I'd undeniably become an adult.

I'm still waiting for the day when I feel like it. Of course, I'm old enough now that I feel creaky when I get up in the morning, and neither my knees nor my eyesight are what they once were (not to mention my hairline), and the thought of sharing a house with a bunch of roommates or having a futon for a bed or buying five-dollar bottles of Merlot from Trader Joe's and actually drinking them by choice all seem laughable now. I live in a college town and have trouble telling the high school kids from the college ones, and I say 42 when someone asks my age and if the lifespans of my family are any indication then I'm halfway-ish through my life and thus literally middle-aged and all of these things point to the same inescapable something that the cute barista calling me "sir" does, and it's that whatever adultness I'm not feeling must be exactly what denial feels like.

My little sister has been a parent now for almost half her life. She's a successful business owner. Specifically, she's responsible enough that for her job, pregnant women come to her and trust her to guide them from the mommies-to-be stage through the about-to-be-mommies stage to the labor-and-delivery stage, at which point she catches their newborns and thus shepherds said women into the holy-crap-we're-mommies-now stage. It goes without saying that these women look to her as a trustworthy and authoritative individual. Obviously the person I am describing is a far cry from being a kid.

But if you were to ask me for the representative image of us, I would describe to you a photo that lives on my mother's dresser. My sister and I are aged maybe five and three. I'm wearing a t-shirt and shorts and am lankily long-limbed. My sister is wearing exactly the kind of dress you think of little girls as wearing. We're outside on the back patio of our house, and she's holding our cat, Maxwell, whom she could not have loved more. She's holding him under the front legs so that his belly shows and his legs all stick out and he wears a moderately aggrieved but relatively patient look that says, "I am putting up with this, but I will escape soon."

We have not been those people for a very long time. Even I, who still struggles to feel like an adult, know that the picture captures a moment long gone now. It seems like it depicts two long-lost people because it does.

And yet it doesn't. We're still that. I'm still long-limbed and gangly (in mien if no longer in body) and she's still most herself holding something smaller than she is, be it furry or young.

Time passes and also time does not pass.

Happy 40th Birthday, Abigail. Birferness on you. Your big brother loves you.

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