Allison's Book Bag

Letter To My College-Bound Sister

Posted on: September 19, 2013

As part of Zest Books’ virtual book promotional tour for Ramsey Beyer’s memoir entitled Little Fish, participants were invited to write their own life transition story. In response to this invitation, I’d intended to talk about my rebellious college years. And how that spirit of independence only somewhat faded when I returned home. And how, along the way, I sort of learned to become an adult.

Then I read Little Fish and came up with a completely different idea. Little Fish is about a small town girl who moved to the big city, studied at a prestigious art school, and experienced her first love. Ultimately, as often happens to young adults, college changed Ramsey Beyer’s life.

My sister will graduate this year from high school. She might continue her music training, but for many years she has talked about becoming a lawyer. In any event, I suspect her college experiences might prove similar to Ramsey Beyer’s life-changing one. For that reason, I’m writing this post to my sister about a project inspired by Little Fish that I wish to create for her.


Dear Sis,

Pretty much most of your life, I have been the sister who moved away and returned only at Christmas for visits. Those vacations were for a month, which is a generous amount of time for an employer to allow one to have off, but I suspect we’d both agree a month was far too short.

For many years, whenever I came to visit, you and Robert would eagerly await my visits. At the airport, the two of you always showered me with balloons, other presents, and many hugs. Even when the visits became routine, and so you lost a little excitement in your greeting, the two of you would tickle me and tease me the entire car ride home. You were annoying but also oh so sweet.

My biggest dilemma those days always seemed to be how to have a moment to my self. We played dolls, rescued snails, collected everything and anything, tried out new games, drew pictures, made crafts, read books, and endless other stuff. I felt happy but exhausted at the day’s end. The chaos never seemed to end and, when I returned back to my empty apartment in the Midwest, I badly missed it. I’d always run up my electric bill the first few weeks back, because of how often I turned on my television and radio for background noise. Of course, it wasn’t ever the same as being with family but it kept me sane until I could find calm again in the quiet.

You and I were the ones who got to share a room together, although Robert often pestered to be the one. Sometimes after I’d tuck him in bed, I’d wait for him to fall asleep before I returned to you. I often retired early, just so we could talk. Pretty much every night, we would fall asleep by asking each other questions. I thought you’d never run out of ones. I also thought I’d never come up with enough to satisfy you. Mostly, I never thought those days would one day end.

You’re almost an adult now, and so probably don’t remember, but almost every year you’d ask me to just stay. And not go away. I kept telling you that I needed to get back to my job. But maybe one year. And then one night, you astutely asked, “You’re not ever coming back to stay, are you?” I know that now you probably understand my reasons for having left home, all those many years ago. After all, you’ll soon spread your wings too, pinning your hopes on finding a meaningful job and a romantic relationship outside of our small town. Whether or not you understand at the time though, I have no idea.


Webkinz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At any rate, as you grew older, you stopped wanting to share your room. You also stopped writing in journals like your big sister. Your circles of friends grew. Your interests changed. And a distance crept into our relationship, as you became your own person. We exchanged letters for a time. We bonded for a time over Webkinz. These days, there’s still a distance, which perhaps can’t be erased because there are also so many physical miles separating us, but we’ve started going on day trips together when we visit. We’ve shared sister jewelry, even if we’re ill-fated to have it always break. 😦 We like some of the same music. And you seem to like the scrapbooks that I’ve made for you over the past couple of years.

And I’ve been brainstorming lately, trying to think about the perfect next project to share. Now I think I have it. For your birthday, I’m sending you a copy of Little Fish. Then every few weeks after that, I’m going to send you pages inspired by Little Fish. Such as lists of what I liked and disliked about going to college. Descriptions of the friends I met there. Lists of things that annoyed me, frightened me, grieved me. Descriptions of the teachers I encountered there. Notes about my reading classes where I dressed up like Anne Shirley or writing classes where I tried to imitate my favorite authors. Stories about my first movie, first dance, first earrings, and first date. Or memories about when I dyed my hair, danced to Footloose in public, and occasionally dressed like Madonna. College changes your life.

Just nine months from now you’ll graduate. Andy and I are looking forward to seeing you walk across the stage and accept your diploma. Now that you have a part-time job, who knows if you’ll have time to do those day trips with us again this year. Everything keeps changing, but one thing that stays the same is how much I love you. No matter where college takes you. And how it changes you. Enjoy grade twelve and expect pages from me later this fall!

Love, Your Big Sis

2 Responses to "Letter To My College-Bound Sister"

“Letter To My Sister” both brought back fond memories of past days and reminded me that the time is fast approaching when None of my three “little ones” will be here to stay. Best wishes in the project!

Thanks! Actually, I enjoyed writing “Letter to My Sister” so much that it inspired a second idea. Months ago, I thought about posting stories inspired by published works. As that would take an overwhelming amount of time, I never pursued the idea. Now instead I’m thinking of a somewhat more modest idea. When time allows, I’d like to post personal essays inspired by books which I review. For example, in another couple weeks, I’m reviewing a novel about first crushes. I could share a sampling of mine. I’ll have to experiment and see what reader reaction is. 🙂

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