Sisterhood: The Bare Necessities


Katianna Mansfield, Staff Writer

After what could qualify as the worst day of my present life, I enter the threshold into my home. Still on edge of more potential damage, I trudge up the stairs to throw my backpack on the floor and myself on the bed, ready to sleep the rest of the day away.

A knock at my door brings an upsetting feeling of uneasiness regarding interacting with other human beings yet again, but once the resonant, grown voice of that fourteen-year-old I’ve known all my life rings in my ears, I know the day can only get better.

“Kati?” She questions. “Are you okay?”

I don’t need to answer, I don’t need to lie; a simple raising of the arm will do as she comes over to snuggle me and tell me about her day that I wish beyond hope was better than mine. The pounding in my head and the tight feeling behind my eyes all dissipates.

This early teenager who has a monstrous grip on my heart the way no one else does is my little sister, Karissa Michele Mansfield.

I’ve felt responsible for her since I was quite young no matter how small the age difference. She has always been mine. She is my baby, and any time she misbehaves, I feel personally accountable for her actions. If she doesn’t say thank you, it is my job to make sure I thank them for her and remind her for next time. If she acts entitled, it is because I give her everything she asks for and never tell her no. If I decline, I immediately retract it because it is not her asking too much, it’s me being unfair. These all seem somewhat ridiculous because I am a sibling and nothing more, but they are core beliefs I hold dearly that I cannot change.

However, with the difficult parental mindset comes the more rewarding experiences as well. When we are in public and strangers tell us how sweet it is to see a pair of sisters so unbelievably close, I feel like I can take a full breath for once knowing that it’s not all in my head, that my worrying and anxieties have physical evidence of success in the eyes of others.

When she gets onstage every year for the Lowell talent show (and makes the Lowell Ledger for it), when she screams at the top of her lungs for her teammates as she charges the lacrosse goalie box, when she is granted dozens of high academic awards at the honor roll ceremony, every solo and ensemble division one and two worthy performances, and all marching band halftime shows fill my heart with the epitome of pride that I can feel more powerfully than any other emotion.

When it finally hit me that my Rissa Bug was entering high school, that she was becoming a freshman, I cried. She had asked for advice on how to survive high school, and I just broke down in tears. She didn’t understand why I was so emotional, and it took me a few moments to understand myself.

This young lady has been in my life since I can remember. The one year and ten months I lived before she came along might as well have not even existed, because nothing mattered before her.

I held her as a baby, a tiny infant in the arms of another, just a little bit bigger, and my heart was whole. I promised to love her more than anyone could for the remainder of my life.

My parents love her, they treasure her as theirs because they were mentally mature at the time of her birth and every day since then, but they can’t conceptualize the profound love that can grow within a child who didn’t know how to measure importance until that definitive moment when she officially had someone to call her own.

I still hold her when she needs it, carry her around on my back when she has felt the weight of a high school workload and just needs some support, and she is always welcome in my bedroom for a sister-sister discussion, but the dynamic has changed.

The short child I once had to teach how to use the bathroom is now a teenager. My little girl with an “office lady haircut” who refused to wear jeans until the sixth grade now has a boyfriend and marches at high school football games. Her morals have changed, her ideas are her own, she is more than just innocence wrapped in Justice sequins; she is beautiful and full of life. She wears makeup, can style hair, cooks macaroni far better than I can, does her homework, checks her grades almost as often as her big sister, has a sense of self-worth and confidence, and can understand every sentence that comes out of my mouth. She is becoming a person who is knowledgeable with her own opinion and voice.

It’s hard to see her grow up. I will not lie. Those tears over her freshman year weren’t of pride; they were out of selfishness. High school is difficult. The workload is painful, the sleep is not plentiful, your mental stability deteriorates before it strengthens, you have the challenging task of finding yourself and where you stand with others, and the amount of enormous decisions you have to make is terrifying. I just want her to stay young for a little bit longer. I want to come home to a kid who isn’t constantly worrying about when she’ll do her homework or how she can bring up her GPA. I want my little girl who didn’t have a care in the world other than the love of her family and her passion for everything under the sun. I selfishly want the ignorance I used to have that she was always okay, that she had however many years/months/weeks/days left until she inevitably grew up and could think and come up with ideas and have a conception of herself that might not always be positive, but it finally fell upon me, and I think it’s okay.

When it all comes down to it, I want her to be happy. I know she’ll flourish in high school, I know she’ll have hundreds of friends and high honors through all four years, and she’ll graduate the most beautiful woman, inside and out, that the world has ever seen. But the very thought of those rough times, the moments when she is so overwhelmed that all she can do is cry, when she only gets two hours of sleep, but has school, lacrosse, band practice, and homework to look forward to, when she looks in the mirror and hates the person she sees as she transforms into that senior graduate, those thoughts feel like molten lead poured directly into my body and replaces everything circulating inside. I have never been more fearsome than I am about confronting the future and its obstacles with my baby sister.

But if I know anything, it’s that she is strong. She can handle more than I can, and I will admit that with every fibre of my being.

She is beauty and she is fire and she has every possible trait she needs to get her through the difficult times in life.

It goes without saying that she has me, too.

She has me, and she always will. I may not be able to hold her in my arms anymore, but I can hold her much closer to my heart without a physical effort to do so.

She used to be my baby; she used to be my little girl, and I have to learn to accept that she is now my teenager. My imperfect, attitude-ridden, lovingly-souled teenager.

I love you, Karissa. I will love every person you become from today on out, unconditionally.