By Jennifer M. Dryden (c) 2010
This spring break will mark my ninth year boarding a plane alone to fly off to my favorite place on Earth: Cincinnati, Ohio. If you were expecting me to say Paris or Los Angeles or Miami, you’re probably drawn back by Cincinnati … that or you know me and are nodding. There’s something in Ohio that I can’t get anywhere else. There’s not one human being that can compare to this little seven-year-old girl that Cincinnati grasps in its boundaries. Her long name is Amelia, her casual name is Mia and my nickname for her is Missy Moo. She’s my little sister.
Now, she’s not my biological little sister so don’t go thinking my mom miraculously birthed another child in her early 50s and after a hysterectomy. To get technical, Mia is my first cousin-once removed, or more simply put, my cousin’s daughter. I remember when she christened me as her big sister. She was sitting atop my lap on their office’s black leather swivel chair playing Webkinz’s online games. We were playing the Cash Cow game; she told me where to click and I maneuvered the mouse quickly to get more Kinzcash for her to buy accessories for her furry friends’ digital homes – one of which was designed in all pirate gear including a pirate ship bed for her brown Labrador named Chocolate. We had just gotten another Kinzcash dollar and she tipped her head backward to meet my eyes with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen her bridge.
“Jennifer, can you be my sister?” the five-year-old Mia asked with a serious tone. Her giggles had stopped. If a five-year-old could be serious, I witnessed it right then. I was speechless but swallowed the lump in my throat and nodded.
“Of course I’ll be your sister!” I answered, my voice pitched too high. I detached my right hand from the curved mouse and wrapped both arms around her in an embrace.
“Good,” she simply said. Her attention turned back to the screen with her pointer finger leaving an invisible print on the PC monitor, instructing my right hand where to click next. We finished the game with five milk trucks driving away, which in Cash Cow language means we kicked butt.
That was right after the ringing in of the 2008 New Year – my sophomore year in college – and from then on we were known as sisters. The name carried throughout the house and whenever I call or visit, I’m known as “Big Sister” and now that Alexandra (my other little sister) is born, sometimes I’m known as “Big Big Sister.” I’ve never felt more a part of a family than I do in Cincinnati.
I book tickets nearly three times every year, which means every Christmas break, spring break and summer break I’m out there sandwiched between two munchkins in the backseat of their four-door maroon car. I play Mouse Trap and Sorry board games, Star Wars and Indiana Jones Lego Xbox 360 games, and make gooey aliens and bugs with her creepy crawler kit. Sometimes we do “experiments” where we combine anything we want into a bowl – water, vinegar, sprinkles, food coloring, mustard, etc – and watch to see what happens. She’s all muscle and can take me down with one good tackle. I leave there with more bruises than I’ll see in an entire year but that’s because we wrestle until I cry “uncle,” waving the white flag in desperation for a breath. She’s more active than I ever remember being and never stops running around until around nine at night when she lets herself rest on the tan leather couch; she’s asleep within two minutes. She’s a tomboy. She despises pink, princesses and flowers. She prefers camouflage and her soccer uniforms. I tease her about making her wear a pink dress someday in my wedding because I love to hear her yell, “Ew gross!” She still claims I’ll marry Caaaaaarl (that’s how she says it) and even though I’ve told her a million times that we aren’t dating, she insists I’m nuts and assures me she has the answers.
Now that she’s seven, she’s become this mature little thing who has her own voice, opinions and interests. She likes boys and is “dating” a boy named Alex – I have yet to meet this boy to approve – who I’ve heard her sigh over and say his name all dreamy. “Ohh, I miss him,” Six-year-old Mia said last August when she got to stay up late with me. That night we goofed around talking about boys like sisters would… boys! I just couldn’t believe it. MY little sister has a crush. It probably won’t be as epic as her toddler-love with Pierson but I’m sure someday someone will out run Pierson. (Sorry, bud!)
So when I fly away to Cincinnati instead of South Padre Island or Miami Beach for spring break in 19 days, don’t act surprised and think your trip will be way better because this little seven-year-old munchkin and our little little sister Alex (now 17 months old) will be leaping into my arms at an estimated speed of 100 miles per hour once our eyes meet. The hugs, wrestling matches, board games, and love won’t stop for seven days. It’ll be a weeklong marathon of sisterly love. Seven days of waking up to Mia’s bright face three inches from mine, whispering, “Jennifer, it’s time to wake up!” Also, I’ll try to choke down more tears when I see Alex walk for the first time, maybe Mia and I will teach her how to say “big sister.” Oh, how I love my home sweet Cincy.
To hear about my March 2010 spring break trip to Cincinnati, click here. Audio of downtown and photos to view.