When I was 12 years old, my mother happily told me that we "as a unit" were expecting another addition to our already too-large family. I was bullshit. I was SO ANGRY I ran away for an ENTIRE AFTERNOON, packing 4 peanut butter sandwiches and sitting in the tree across the road, glaring in to my house's bay windows. It took me approximately 4 peanut butter sandwiches and a creeping cold fog to realize no one was coming after me. So, I took my bloated ass home and faced the music. The awful baby music I was sure would come.
And then came Anna.
The first picture of us, I am a tear stained skinny little thing- (looking more like a young Italian boy with a uni brow than an actual pre-pubescent young girl.) And I am holding this...thing, but I am staring in to her brilliant blue eyes like it was the first sign of land after a life on sea. I had been crying, (throwing tantrums, really. I was a weird kid,) but when Anna was placed in my arms, I distinctly remember looking down and thinking, "Oh. There you are." She was what we needed...what I needed...and I had no idea until I cradled her day-hold head and suddenly became fiercely protective over her well being. Maybe this little alien would garner all attention from here on out, but I was ok with it. It became a natural mission that was embedded in me when we locked eyes: the oldest defends and protects the youngest. She may have been borne from my mother...but she was mine.
Anna grew up to be a sassy little thing. Gorgeous, all big blue eyes and long blond hair, she stuck out in our weird mustached family. I remember sitting with her when she was 6 years old as she complained about how much she didn't like the girls in her first grade class. I tried to tell her to be nice, claiming that "mean girls always finish last." I exclaimed, "Anna-banana, you cannot live on looks alone. You have to be nice, and kind and good and smart." She just sweetly fixed her baby blues on me and said simply, (as a 6 year old, mind you,) "Well. I just hate those stupid bitches." In fairness, Anna had 2 teen-aged sisters, so she would never pick up on the "bitches" speak if it wasn't for us. (Ahem..Ashley. If it wasn't for Ashley.) But, when Anna said that, instead of chastising her, I pulled her in to my lap and told her that we were going to have a song. "Do you know what it means to have a song?" I asked her. "It means that no matter what you are feeling, no matter the "bitches" in your way...this song belongs to only us. And it brings you to where I am. No matter where I am."
Unfortunately, (but fortunately, actually...because I love it now.) Our song was "Angel" by Shaggy. From that day on, whenever we were in the car and Anna would hear the beginning refrains of: "Girl, you're my angel, you're my darlinggg angelll" she would fix her gaze on me and offer a beatific smile. It was our own little world. A place we could be safe together. It was everything.
Anna turned 16 yesterday, and when I called her she immediately drawled in to the phone: "Oh my God. Are you drunk or something? It's 10:30 in California."
"I had a couple glasses of wine," I retorted angrily. But then I softened. "Okay, tell me what you're wearing then, since I'mmm drunkkk." We started giggling, and then both logged on to facebook to send each other inappropriate and crude message whilst on the phone. There was a moment that we were giggling loudly that I thought: God. This is my banana. All grown up. It made my heart hurt and expand and do weird funny little furry tricks. This was the little girl I held on my lap when she was scared of the "Barney" video on TV. This was the little girl I held in my hands the day she fell (at 3 years old) from a table and had a seizure. I cradled her head in my palms until the ambulance came, wanting more than anything to trade places with her. This was the girl that crawled in to bed next to me and fixed her chubby hand around my finger. This was my little angel.
She's 16 now, and far too attractive for her own good...but I'm comforted when I see her. She snorts like I do, and she makes really funny jokes and loves friend chicken more than anything else in the world. She is my blood, my sister, my little banana.
And if anyone touches her, I will fucking knock your head off with the butt of a rifle.
I love you Anna. Happy sweet 16.