On May 12, 1997, my life changed forever. My baby sister was born. Much to my dismay, my parents did not name her “Trash Can” like three-year-old me wished. Instead, they called my future friend Hannah Danielle.
- We had moved from Ohio to Georgia. I learned to care by learning to love Hannah. But sometimes, that love wasn’t always perfect. Like any sisters, we had days when we fought. She wanted to run around. I wanted to play pretend. She wasn’t gentle with my dolls. I was making a two year old be gentle. Though I cannot recall what we were fighting about, we were in trouble one day. Sitting in time out on the top stair, my parents found us. We held hands and through our tears, we chanted “We’re best friends. We’re best friends.”
In 2001, our lives had changed again. Little Rebekah had completed the trio of sisterhood. But she still wasn’t old enough to play with us, so Hannah was still subject to my complicated games of pretend. We would sit on my top bunk for hours. Most of our time was spent naming the eleven village orphans that we were suddenly responsible for. They all had to have names that started with the same letter. “Michael and Michelle.” “No, not Michelle.” “Molly.” “Mallory!” “I love the name Miley.” “Oh, good one. I’ll start writing—Micale. Mily. Madisen. Micaela.” And so we would sit, spelling the names wrong, until we came up with the perfect little setting. And then, Hannah would be the dog. Every time, whether the scenario involved orphans with “m” names or a classroom full of “l” named kids, the doorbell would ring. And Hannah would escape from her sparkly pink belt leash and run out the door. I would chase her all around the house until we both rolled into a giggling hug.
- When Hurricane Katrina struck, the rains that reached Georgia were mesmerizing. My little heart knew that the storm was tragic. As would become so much more common over the years, I looked to Hannah to help me understand a difficult situation. Somehow, we decided that we could be newscasters too. We asked to wear our bathing suits and go play in the rain. Our pretend umbrellas blew away as we surveyed the “damage.” Soon, I was dancing with Hannah as we jumped in puddles.
I grew up, into terribly awkward middle school years when having a sister three years younger did not always seem fair. Then, Hannah entered those early preteen years. Even the strife of being thirteen couldn’t change the fact that we were friends. We giggled at our daddy’s jokes. We looked forward to Mondays with mom.
We grew up. Homework became more stressful. Days grew longer. Years passed with astounding speed. As I learned to drive, Hannah sat in the backseat and said, “I find it helps if I close my eyes. And pray.” As she learned to drive, Rebekah and I were her traffic cones. The first day of her Freshman year was the first day of my Senior year. I drove Hannah to school, careful to play music that could become ours. For the first time since I was in third grade, we were going to be in the same school. Hannah held my hand as my family dropped me off at college. She put a note in my bag telling me that she would miss me. I missed her, but on days when I was lonely and homesick, Hannah was only a phone call away. And when I arrived home, her hugs welcomed me.
On May 1, 2015, I sent Hannah a text message wishing her a happy birthday month. Suddenly sentimental, I realized something: May would be the last month that we lived in the same house. I’ll be away for the summer. She’ll go off to college. The mysterious future makes me look back on the past. The pictures tell a story, but the memories I’ll cherish most are not necessarily ones that were captured. It’s in the little moments that I realize how proud I am of her. She’s touched so many lives; she’s so incredibly accomplished. Her beauty is deep. Life without Hannah Danielle is impossible to imagine. I’ve loved being Hannah’s sister through all the hours spent giggling, the days spent laughing, and the years spent growing up together.