Happy birthday, Baby Sister. Everybody knows that as a leap year baby, you don't actually get a "real" birthday this year, but I hope that your pretend one is everything you want and deserve it to be.
I loved you months before you were born. At seven years old, I had no idea what a sister was or what you would become to me, but I knew that I wanted a girl baby to come out of our mother's stomach. Or wherever. I already had two older brothers, and they never wanted to play house with me. Or anything else, for that matter.
I remember being at a friend's home after school when I found out that you had arrived. As I recall, I called our neighbour Ena (she would eventually become your babysitter when Mom returned to work) and Ena happily exclaimed that I had a new sister, and that you were a leap year baby. I was ecstatic that you had come out a girl, but incredibly worried about you being a leap year baby. I thought she meant you were a leper. I had recently learned about Jesus or somebody curing a colony of lepers, but I still really didn't like the sounds of it. I am sure somebody would have cleared that up for me right quickly.
My memories of your childhood are mostly fond, albeit a bit sketchy. I remember that you had a Mrs. Beasley doll that you loved, and that I sort of wanted one myself. You had a Fisher Price bus that our cousin Lisa cut her foot on, although I can't for the life of me recall how she would have done that. It was Fisher Price, after all. I don't know if there was even such a thing as a toy recall in 1968. I remember that at your christening party (always a big deal in our family) I overheard Nannie say to somebody, "Yes, she's a beautiful baby but they all start out that way. Why look at Dawn, she gets homelier every year." Which is kind of funny now, but I suppose it might have hurt like hell at the time.
I remember that when you graduated from a crib, that you hated to sleep in your own bed. To keep you out of their bed every night, Mom and Dad gave me their double bed and bought themselves a queen. You would crawl into my bed every night and I would curl myself around you, content and happy for the company. What I remember about loving you the most, was that you would always play house, or whatever else I wanted you to play. I was the mother, you were the baby. I once built you a crib out of a box and put you in it in my closet. You hollered blue bloody murder (now there is a "mom-ism for you). You didn't like the dark, and at two years old, you had probably already developed your unhealthy and extreme fear of clowns. I don't know why Mom threatened you with clowns and wooden spoons, but she wouldn't have if she realized how detrimental it was to your psyche, I am sure.
Watching the family movies that you and Bro-In-Law stitched together on DVD recently reminded me of how much of a little ham you were by the time you were six. You were an adorable little bugger with your freckly angelic face and your red hair, your exuberant smile. You loved the video camera (were they called that back then?) and it captured your personality perfectly. Seeing you on film dancing and playing with Wee Blonde Baby Cousin, I can only wonder that you loved having her to boss around as much as I had appreciated having you.
Seven years difference spread like a huge gulf between us at various times over the years, and as with all families (yes, Baby Sister, all families) shit happens that is better left to therapy. But I don't ever recall not loving you with all of my heart. I love you still. Next year is a leap year. We will do it up right. Until then, happy birthday to you today. And watch out for the clown. Seriously, he's still going to get you.