I don’t know how many times I’ve told the story, but I was beyond surprised when Mom told me you were on the way – I was shocked. Flabbergasted. More than a little concerned that my way-too-old-to-have-another-baby mother was pregnant – again. And I told her so. I can only imagine the patience it took for Mom to keep from throttling my arrogant 13-year-old self.
The news of you was surprising. And you have kept on surprising me from that first moment. Surprise – you were a girl (poor Joel). Surprise – you were a big baby (at least we thought of you as big until these huge nephews started arriving). Surprise – you came on a Sunday … early (Mom told Dad he should have someone ready to preach, just in case – he didn’t).
I fell in love the moment I saw you. Seriously, I was a weeping mess in the delivery room. Then I worried … with a nearly 14 year age difference, would we ever really know each other? Surprise – we do.
Baby you was the one I whispered all my angst-ridden teenage secrets too. Surprise – you never told. Toddler you was the loudest fan at my basketball games. Surprise – you always assumed we were going to win. As you grew, God kept me here and – surprise – caused us to develop a relationship that is one of the sweetest blessings in my life.
Then you turned 11, and I left the country and (no surprise) we both changed. When I came home, surprise – you weren’t a baby anymore. Surprise – you didn’t like being babied anymore. Surprise – you grew up.
Daddy likes to introduce the two of us as his Alpha and Omega. We fit together that way somehow. We are the bookends. Where we are alike we are soooooo alike. And where we are different —
Surprise – you are the crazy one. Surprise – you understand fashion. Surprise – you play the violin. Surprise – you like to “hang out” with a large group of your (equally) crazy friends. Surprise – you play volleyball. Surprise – you like to dance. Surprise – that hair though.
I watched you grow up too fast in the middle of betrayal and strife in the church. Surprise – you still love God’s people. I taught you as an inaugural student at One Room. Surprise – you came back for your senior year. I directed you in numerous productions. No surprise – you are just as dramatic as your siblings. I coached you for many years of basketball and (surprise) volleyball. Surprise – you are tougher than anyone knows.
Wonderful, surprising Ninny – you are tenderhearted, kind, serving, competitive, tough, and thoughtful. You are a defender of the little guy, and champion of justice. You are argumentative, stubborn, and solid in your convictions. You are a good friend, a wonderful Auntie, an amazing baby sister.
Surprise – you are graduating today. No surprise – my big-sister heart hurts just a smidge. Surprise – you are more than ready. No surprise – I’m so incredibly proud of you. Surprise – you make that cap look great … oh wait, that’s no surprise too.
Love you Ninny! Congratulations.