Last week, my younger sister Jane left the United States to teach abroad in Prague for a year. Yes, our little lamb left the farm. For years, she had been talking about moving to a different country after she graduated college, but none of us actually thought she would do it. We just figured it was something she’d talk about but never follow through on, like how my mom talks about putting our family photos into photo albums, but we all know that will never happen. Of course we listened to Jane when she told us of her plan to move to Europe after graduation but in our heads we were all thinking, “Oh there goes the family nut job Jane rambling on about her ‘magical’ adventures again.” We all laughed because we all know there is no magic after you graduate college. Silly young and naive Jane! But when she booked her flight and paid the program deposit back in May, it was a reality check for all of us that this little lamb was serious.
We all reacted differently when Jane shared the news that she was officially going abroad. My mom was sad and told her she was not allowed to meet her future husband there, that she MUST move back to the States after a year. My dad immediately began to worry and asked if she had ever seen the movie Taken. He was not too keen on the idea that his youngest child was going to be so far away for so long. “Remember that little lamb, ‘Miss Kelly’ we saw in Dayton?!” My dad said, “That’s how I picture you in a foreign country! You’ll just be prey for all sorts of vultures! You’re too trusting of people!” It would be an understatement to say that he did not take this news very well. For my siblings and me, it was disbelief. “You’re actually leaving us?!!!!” I said, “I thought this whole ‘I’m going to move abroad’ thing was just one of your empty promises that you’d never actually follow through on! Like how you said you’d replace Bridget’s earrings that you lost a couple of years ago but you never actually did!” “HEY!” Jane responded, defensively, “I TOLD Bridget to pick out a pair and then I’d pay for them and she never did! Also, I’m offended that you thought I would never go through with my plan.” I just kept asking Jane the same question, quoting Gus Portokalos, the father in my favorite movie of all time, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, “Why you want to leave me?!” I just didn’t understand why she was leaving me and fleeing the country.
After the initial shock wore off, Jane then announced that she would be a “miser” this summer so she could save lots of money for her big move. This was also very hard for everyone to believe and we all had a good laugh. We had no idea how much misers liked to go out to the bars and eat out on the weekends. Jane did get a job nannying over the summer so she was making and saving some money. She was able to do this because I, being the saint that I am, let her borrow my car while I sacrificed and walked to work everyday. My work is less than a mile from where I live but don’t try and belittle my sacrifice. It was tougher than people give me credit for. Do you know how many lemonade stands I had to avoid on my walk home from work everyday? Summer in suburbia means lemonade stands are on every corner like Starbucks downtown. It’s easy to avoid eye contact with children yelling at you to buy lemonade when you are in the comfort of an automobile, but when you’re on foot it’s a lot harder! And do you know how many sprinklers I had to walk around in the early morning hours on my journey to work? Sidewalks are for walking, not sprinklers! Plus, with all the extra exercise I was getting, I began to worry that I would get too jacked and people would not recognize me at the end of the summer! “Is that Kathleen Kelly or Jillian Michaels? I can’t tell.” People would say. I better get into heaven after all I went through. I will keep everyone posted on my canonization process.
Since Jane was living at home again over the summer, her and I got to spend a lot of time together. We no longer shared a bedroom but we still saw each other in the hallway and other common areas of Ma and Pa Kelly’s old maid sanctuary. We also had similar work schedules so we were usually up in the mornings at the same time and we went to bed at the same time. We had some great conversations while brushing our teeth together in our upstairs bathroom. Our “Kids” bathroom vanity has double sinks so we would stand next to each other chatting while brushing away, washing our faces or flossing. One night, after I had JUST cleaned our bathroom hours before, I watched Jane as I brushed my teeth and she washed her face. After a few minutes I paused my electric toothbrush and finally said, “Um, excuse me, Jane? I just had a quick question that I’ve been meaning to ask you.” She stopped washing her face and looked at me, thinking I was going to ask her about something very serious. “Yea, what is it?” She said, a little concerned. “Have you ever been to Splash Mountain in Disney World?” I asked. Her concern then turned to confusion. “No, why?” she said. “Oh, ok” I said, “I was just wondering. I wasn’t sure if you were maybe trying to relive your experience on that ride the way you are splashing away over there as if you’re Hayden Panettiere washing your face on a Neutrogena commercial, getting water all over the counter tops that I JUST cleaned.” She just laughed and rolled her eyes. “Aren’t you a little smart ass?” She said. She will definitely miss my sarcastic remarks while she is in Prague.
Another time while we were both brushing our teeth Jane was trying to talk to me about how she calculated the amount of time on average people spend on morning and night time routines. She was explaining how she came to her final number but honestly I could not hear her and I really did not care. I’m hard of hearing and I had just replaced the battery in my electric toothbrush so it was louder and more powerful than ever! I finally stopped my toothbrush and cut her off. “Jane, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to stop talking. I just came here to brush my teeth and go to bed, not to solve a math problem on the ACT.” It’s like we get it Jane, you graduated college with honors.
As the summer rolled on and Jane’s departure date got closer, my parents became more and more sad. It was crunch time for them to get everything in before Jane left. They threw her a going away party, we took our Christmas card picture and then we had NUMEROUS “Last Family” meals to the point where it was getting ridiculous. My Mom kept adding family dinners so everyone could say goodbye to Jane. It was starting to get awkward how many times we were all seeing each other. “Are we all going to have to meet again tomorrow for a ‘Family Snack’ between lunch and dinner as another goodbye meal to Jane?” I asked my mom sarcastically as we finished up our 800th family dinner. (She ignored my question and instead just called me a smart ass.) We even had a last family lunch at my parents’ favorite burger place in the neighborhood, Pappy’s. This lunch temporarily distracted Mike Sr. and Mo from their sadness about Jane’s departure upon their discovery that Pappy’s had switched from Coke to Pepsi products. Being die hard Diet Coke fans, my parents were LIVID that they could no longer drink Diet Coke with their lunch there. For the first time in many months we had a meal where the conversation did not center around Jane’s big move but rather how Diet Pepsi does not agree with my father’s stomach and how my mom thinks it tastes flat. Somehow they managed to drink the poison some people call Diet Pepsi, finish their meals, and make it home safely.
Before we knew it, it was time for Jane to leave us. My parents were sad but I reminded them that I will still be here and many people think I look just like Jane so there’s really no difference. Hours after she left, Duke moved his things into Jane’s room and took over her bed, but I’m sure he is sad that she is gone. (Don’t worry Jane, we told him about your “No eating Puperoni in bed” rule.) I was sad for Jane to leave me too. It was nice having another Millennial home with me to take care of the Baby Boomers and I will definitely miss our conversations while brushing our teeth. But I know that she will have the time of her life and I hope to visit her in the Spring. I’m sure the year she is gone will fly by and before we know it, our little lamb will be back on the farm.