This weekend, my family and I had a going-away party for my younger sister, Tori. A recent graduate from Modesto Junior College, she was accepted – with in-state tuition! – to a great agricultural program at Texas Tech University. Next week, she’ll also be turning 20 years old.

While the party was fun, and we made sure to playfully roast her in front of her friends with embarrassing stories of her growing up, the get-together made me realize just how much my baby sister has grown up. I mean, I’ve had several moments like this in the past couple of years, but last night it was evident. My baby sister is certainly not a baby anymore. She’s truly a young adult now, just like me.

Realizing this brought back memories from nearly 10 years ago, when I first left home to begin this journey they call young adulthood. My older sister, Stacey, and I are nine and seven years older than Tori, respectively, and after years of having us both around, she became like an only child. One week our Stacey married and moved in with her new husband, and the week after I moved to Southern California to college, and Tori suddenly had the room to herself. At first, she was elated. She got her own room! No more getting bossed around by her two well-meaning and stern older sisters. She was in hog heaven.

With time, we all started to miss each other, as sisters do. Whenever I visited from college, Tori and I found ourselves throwing slumber parties, suddenly eager to share a room again, giggling over gossip and watching silly movies. Even then, though, Tori was still my baby sister.

Then off I went to Austria for the summer back in 2012. When I left, Tori was shorter than me; after I returned, she was able to sneak up behind me at the baggage claim, loop her arms over my shoulders, and say, “Hi!” in my ear, something she had been too short to do before. I was only gone for two months, but that was the summer she went through her growth spurt, and soon she was an inch taller than me. So now, even though she’s the youngest, Tori towers over both Stacey and me. However, she was still my baby sister, just as she had always been.

Then I blinked, and she graduated from middle school, then high school. In a flash, her two years at Modesto Junior College were over. And then there I was last Sunday, standing in front of family and friends, sharing an embarrassing story of when she was a kid throwing a fit about eating something healthy for lunch. In no time, I’m going to be traveling to Texas to watch her graduate with her bachelor’s degree, and I can’t wait. I bet she can’t, either.

So, my baby sister isn’t a baby anymore. She has grown into a determined, successful young woman, and my family and I are very proud of her. It’s a little hard to let her go, but that’s what baby sisters do: they grow up. All I can do is kiss her on the cheek, wish her luck, tell her (again) to not party too hard, and send her off with a new coffee maker for those late night study sessions.

Good luck in Texas, baby sister. And don’t forget: wreck ’em!

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I’m a local girl raised in Calaveras County. When I’m not working for the Enterprise, I’m either writing a book or riding a horse at the family ranch.

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