Monday, August 22, 2011

Saying Goodbye (For Now)

In less than an hour, my cousin sister is going to board a plane bound for Tianjin, China, where she will make a transit to Beijing. In a few days, she would be starting her Degree studies on Biotechnology in Beijing University, China.

Soon Yi :)
(Yes, unflattering picture. But I'm cheeky like that!)

I hold my Phor Phor's hand as we navigate around trolleys of luggage and running toddlers. I tiptoe to look over the heads of busy-looking people who look like they're headed somewhere on important business, while others doze off on the plastic chairs, their mountain of bags beside them.

Finally, I spot my aunt waving at us. "We're here! We're here!"

My cousin brother asks me, "Where's Soon Yi?"

I have no idea. I didn't see her. Couldn't see her. But she had to be around here somewhere.

A large group of boisterous young people fall aside to reveal my cousin sister, smack in the middle, laughing. She is wearing a white sweater, and new Sketchers shoes that look comfortable as hell. Her red-purple highlights are more distinctive under these bright airport lights.

As I watch her with her close friends, for the first time, I realize one sad thing: I am not as close to my cousin sister as I'd like to think.

Distance had always been a factor. We seldom met up except for the CNY and Christmas holidays--twice a year. Even though she is four years younger than I am, she had always carried herself with such confidence--in the way she spoke, the things she knew, the clothes she wore with brands I'd never even heard of.

Growing up, we bonded as cousins. As a group. But never as cousin sisters. We never were the type to hang out and gossip, go shopping together, do mani-pedis for each other, discuss fashion and boys.

For a country bumpkin like me, she was the classy, sophisticated city girl. I suspect she never knew this, but I sometimes felt inferior to her. That possibly only widened the distance between us.

It didn't help that my aunt (her mother) was extremely proud of her and boasted of all the things she could do/have done every time they were back. I felt so small. And I always feared that Phor Phor loved her more as a granddaughter than me. (Sometimes, I still struggle with that. T.T)


And then. Things changed.  I grew older. I stopped feeling so competitive. I stopped comparing the two of us in my mind. I stopped having to tell myself I was not "losing to her". That one night, when we bunked together alone during a family trip in Malacca, we chatted through the night, till the wee hours of the morning. I discovered that I had a sister that I never knew I had. :)

I look at her now, and I see her smiling, laughing and joking with all her friends. And I am jealous. I am jealous that I never took the time to get to know her as well as they seemed to.

Then I am saddened by the fact that, now that I realize this, she is leaving to another country far away and it seems like it is too late. When she comes back, who will she be then?

However, I am also excited for her. So excited. She is going to learn so much, experience so much, gain so much. Even though it is utterly terrifying to be all on your own so far from home in a new environment, I do not worry too much. If I know her at all, she is going to do just fine. :D

I hand her the note I had (hastily) written this morning to accompany the little gift I had given her. "To read on the plane," I tell her. She thanks me and stuffs it into her leather backpack.

As she says her final goodbyes to her friends, I think about the note I gave her. I told her to remember that she had a family here who would continuously love her, think of her, and pray for her well being and success. That when times were tough, or lonely, she can always  take comfort in that.

I had hoped that the note would be able to convey what I doubt I had been able to do on my own--that despite our not-so-closeness, I cared for her like an older cousin sister would.

I felt the tears as she hugged everyone and waved at the other side of the line. Phor Phor was already in tears, and so were her mum and kuku. But I knew this separation was only temporal. There is always Chinese New Year holidays next year to look forward to :)

Bon voyage, Soon Yi. Stay safe. Miss you already. xoxo
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