Being the little sister means I was running after them right from the start.
Being a little sister was about digging in Christina's closet while she was out with friends so I could look at a cable-knit sweater that she wore sometimes, a sweater that I swore up and down I would have for myself one day. I would try it on in front of the mirror at the end of the hall, pretending I was her. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life and I wanted to look just like her.
(Never mind the whole "digging in her closet when she wasn't home" thing. We just won't talk about the massive privacy violation there.)
Being a little sister was getting rightfully chewed out for stealing Bryan's Batman comic out of his room when he was gone and somehow managing to convince myself that I was the victim. It was wishing on a birthday cake candle one year that I would be as smart as him. It was trying to fit in with their high schooler friends and realizing only after making a fool of myself that it just wasn't going to happen.
It was always getting the backseat unless Mom and I were alone in the car.
(Although I should point out that Bryan, the oldest, usually was in the backseat with me. Christina somehow had it worked out where she got first dibs every time.)
It was having my own bedroom but wanting to share with Christina anyway.
It was going to basketball games because Christina danced at halftime and roaming all over the bleachers whenever no one was looking at me.
It was being called her name over and over again by teachers at school and eventually just answering without correcting anyone. It was having the librarian call me by my brother's name twice and just shrugging and going with it. It was hearing from teachers and other adults the constant refrain of why can't you be more like your siblings?
It's carrying that refrain around in my mind as an adult.
It's being nearly 30 and still feeling like you'll always be working hard to be half the people they are.
That's not all being a little sister is, of course.
It's also some of your first memories being of your eight-year-old sister watching movies with you on the rug, having sleepovers in the playroom.
It's a big brother patiently teaching you the rules of a game.
It's how worried they are when you get hurt.
It's one of the first photos that exist of me being Bryan holding me in his arms, a seven-year-old boy with a nervous smile and a tiny squalling six-pounder who had just discovered him and was about to fall head over heels in love.
It's Christina patiently french-braiding my hair as I cringed and whined and fidgeted.
It was coming home crying because of something I'd been told about my best friend and having Christina sit with me and talk me through it, no matter what she'd been doing before, she dropped that until I felt better.
It was chasing around after them and sometimes having them slow down to let me catch up.
It was holding my niece in my arms for the first time and thinking, I can't think of anyone on earth who could be a better mother than my sister.
It was the first time Bryan and I had a conversation about a book we were both reading.
It was their friends saying hi to me when they came in the door and sometimes asking me what I was up to as if they were actually interested. It was Christina's boyfriend and eventual husband talking to me about The Simpsons when I was 13 and realizing that he was speaking to me like I was the same age as them.
It was both of them coming to help me move into college and realizing we were all adults now and being sort of terrified by it but also so excited because it meant the age difference would start to mean less and less.
Being a little sister was walking down the aisle to them smiling at me from either side of Jason with my brother-in-law in the middle ready to marry us. Being a little sister is their endless support. It's all the gifts Christina has signed my name to, it's every time Bryan's in an airport and calls me and we talk for an hour. It's them holding my baby at Thanksgiving and Bryan telling me he'll probably be engaged at Christmas and helping me to be able to go to his wedding when the triple-whammy of paying for the baby and maternity leave and having to start a new job had me up nights thinking I wouldn't be able to go.
It's this absolute and concrete knowledge that it doesn't matter that we live in three separate states, that we will always be the three of us, always.
Being a little sister is about being asked why can't you be more like them? but it's also about them fiercely defending the person I am.
It's about having taken too much without asking, but it's also about them forgiving me for it every single time.
It's about sometimes feeling incredibly lonely, but it was also knowing the Big Kids were always there when I needed them.
Being a little sister means always chasing after them...
but it also means that they stop and wait for me to catch up.