Friday, June 20, 2008

Worried About Making Friends

My sister Jenny is heading off to Africa in a few days, a continent that no one in my immediate family has ever set foot on. I have no idea why she's even interested in this kind of thing, but she's been taking Swahili for the past few years and now she's taking her new language skills out on a test run.

As the day of her departure approaches, I get more and more nervous.

Because I'm so much older than her, I feel a bit more parental toward her than the normal sibling relationship: kind of like a third parent, but one with no power, sort of like a step-mother. I remember when we brought her home from the hospital -- my mother held Jenny in her arms as we rode the car home. Internally, I was freaking out because I felt that it was highly unsafe for this fragile baby to be transported in the car without any protective gear. But I kept this to myself. My parents were not the type of people who liked to be told what they ought to be doing by a teenager. And by my parents, I mean my father.

When we got her home, my father placed her on the crib mattress on the floor in the living room so that we could all look at her. She hardly weighed anything at all when you held her; it didn't seem normal. That day, I kept rushing to her side to check to make sure she was breathing. It's a good thing that she was a pleasant baby because I jostled her about five times an hour during her first few days of life. I think my paranoia irritated my parents.

Watching her prepare to leave for Africa, I get the same kind of feeling I got when we brought her home. I want to stuff her in a car seat and surround her with a dozen air bags, but she still has to go out into the world on her own. And the world she wants to go to is Africa.

The other day I asked her if she was scared.

"Yeah, I am scared," she admitted. "I'm scared that I'm going to be really lonely there and I'm not going to make friends. Or that no one is going to like me."

"WHAT? You're scared you're not going to MAKE FRIENDS? Aren't you scared that you're going to get robbed or mugged?"

"Uhmmm... Yeah, I guess I'm a little scared of that too."

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