My older sister just left for her school, U of O, not ten minutes ago. In my family this means a couple of things. First, the holidays are really over. I have a week left of break, but who are we kidding, it's all business from here on out. Bags to pack, flight information to sort out, people to say good-bye to, last minute runs to Target, that sort of thing. The exhaust from Rachelle's car hadn't even cleared from the driveway before I was in my room, cleaning. Fun's over, folks. No more dinner parties, no more cookies, no more staying up late watching movies and no more languorous coffee dates. My fate is sealed. Second, it means I'm now the acting oldest child in our household. This is frightening on many levels, for a variety of different people.

Here's the thing: I like to think of myself as someone who can slide easily into a lot of different roles, as someone who can feel comfortable in many different worlds and with many different types of people. I know actually for a fact that this is at least partially true--my Mom had a swanky 50th birthday party last night and our dear friend Laura said to me, you know Lauren, I think it's just so great that one second you can be trekking across Africa and the next all done up at this swanky party and be perfectly happy at both. You're so well-rounded!

Of course I graciously accepted her compliment, smiled a winning smile, and felt my ego grow not just three times, but ten times, that day! I try so hard, I wanted to tell her. Or do I? Cue hair flicking. That's neither here nor there, but I can say quite honestly that I do not easily slide into being the older sister. That's Rachelle's domain. Some people are born to wear that particular mantle of responsibility. I am not some people. I'm Lauren, Lala if you prefer, usually Hobs, occasionally Loho,  regularly LV and Snugsti, sometimes even Tubs, but resolutely, always, and forever, the middle child. I'm petulant and cunning and coercive and manipulative, I'll do a lot for attention, I'm temperamental at best. I do have shining moments of exemplary behavior and every now and then I make a good choice, but I shy away from setting an example, good, bad or otherwise.

Perhaps I'm exaggerating, but it's clear to all parties involved that my sister is best left the oldest. When she goes, a gaping hole is left where her whirlwind of efficiency used to spin. She voluntarily cleans the kitchen and makes dinner and takes photo of crafts to make in her spare time, she monitors how long Garrett has been playing video games and keeps track of Samantha. I can barely keep track of myself, much less someone else. She also doesn't forget that she turned the stove on so the dumplings could cook like I did a few days ago...that was not a fun clean-up. I didn't have to do it, somehow I managed to shirk that task like I do most, but there was a solid four inches burned to the bottom of the pot. Not pleasant.

Anyway. We need Rachelle. She's like an extension of my Mom, but perkier and with a lower tolerance for alcohol. The rest of us sort of flounder around, staying in our pajamas until 3 p.m.* and only leaving the house to go get coffee and read at Barnes and Noble but never actually buy anything. Productivity, right?

I can take care of myself at least moderately well, the Lauren Turns 20 Program was not all for naught. But it's better if my sister is here. Trust me on this one.

And maybe what I'm really getting at is how much I love, adore and worship that mink. Was it just me, or when she drove out of sight did the colors of our neighborhood get a little bit duller? Was everyone a little sharper with each other, did we snap a little harsher? Were we more negative without that perpetual ray of sunshine Rachelle there? Will my morning be somehow darker without her chirping away while I try and read Pearls Before Swine? I'm not sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion the answer to all of the above is yes. For being the worst Minky in all the Land, maybe she's not so bad after all.

In other news, my holidays were great. So unusual, because usually the holidays are prime time to start up a list of grievances to assail your friendly neighborhood shrink with. I, by some strange stroke of luck, have been blessed with a family that I fully enjoy spending time with. Weird but true. I also am still struggling with what my New Year's Resolution should be. So far I'm drawing blanks. But that's a story for a different day.

xoxo, Lauren

*That might just be me and my Grandma Claire. Not really sure, but regardless, I make no apologies.