Kathleen rubbed the sleep out her eyes to make sure it wasn’t a mirage. Nope. A blond teenaged girl sat at a table set for two, waiting patiently, smiling sincerely. Two delicate china tea cups, along with tall glasses of cold orange juice, sat behind two plates, an omelet on each, and a plate of buttered toast in the middle, next to a vase of daisies. Yawning largely and smiling at the same time, Kathleen shuffled to the table and sat down. “Thanks, Sarah.” She eyed the omelet carefully and poked it with her fork.
Sarah recited the ingredients. “Two eggs, finely chopped onion, garlic, green pepper, ham, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, salt, freshly ground pepper, crushed red pepper, and…” Carefully and slowly, Kathleen lifted a bite to her mouth. “…a pinch of cayenne. Hold the salsa. A dollop of sour cream on the side.”
Kathleen chewed thoughtfully before delivering her verdict. “Perfection.”
Sarah’s cheeks flushed with pleasure and she watched her older sister with something bordering on worship. “Thanks. And jasmine green tea with two tablespoons of honey, and a scant teaspoon of milk. ‘Hair-free’ orange juice with no ice.”
“Mmmm…” Kathleen held the warm cup of tea in her hand and inhaled deeply. Taking a delicate, tentative sip, she met her sister’s gaze through the steam rising from the cup of tea. “You’re good.”
“I know.” Sarah took a drink of her own orange juice. “I mean, I’ve only lived with you for all of my seventeen years of life.
“Well, not entirely seventeen years!” Kathleen pointed out. “I was at college in Ohio for the past couple months.”
“Yeah, but in exactly fourteen months and I’ll be in college, too! Just you wait!” Sarah replied haughtily.
“Oh, you’ve decided to go to college?”
“Yep; Oberlin College.”
“Wait a second,” Kathleen swallowed her bite of toast and stared at her sister, dumbfounded. “That’s where I’m going!”
“Won’t it be great? We can be roommates! We might even have some of the same classes because I’m going to major in music also! You can help me with studying and everything and introduce me to your friends and-”
“Wait a minute! You want to major in music? Since when?”
Sarah didn’t meet her sister’s eyes. “I love music,” she answered lamely.
“I’m pretty certain that you can’t major in snare drum.”
Sarah’s shapely nose rose indignantly. “No, but there’s percussion, right? And I’ve been teaching myself how to play the guitar…sorta…”
Kathleen settled back in her chair and perused her sister, though not unkindly. “Sis, you can’t follow me around for your whole life. You have to make your own decisions. What’s right for my life, might not be right for yours. I was under the impression you weren’t too eager to even go to college.”
Her head bowed and shoulders slumped with defeat, Sarah responded, “Not exactly. Mom and Dad are so proud of you and they…expect me, I guess, to go to college. And everybody else keeps asking me if I’ll be going to college and following in my sister’s footprints. But, the truth is, I’ve never really enjoyed school and four years at college just doesn’t sound appealing to me. ”
“Look, Sarah,” Kathleen reached across the table and squeezed her sister’s hand affectionately. “I love you, so don’t take this the wrong way, but…we’re different. I loved learning in school. And music is my passion. You didn’t like school and your idea of music is, well…slightly different…than they teach at college. College and music is right for me, but I really don’t think that it’s for you.”
Tears glistened in Sarah’s soft blue eyes. “I know…but still…I’m not sure what to do with my life.”
“It’s actually pretty simple. What’s something you love to do? Something that you’re really good at?”
“Well…” Sarah seemed hesitant. “I’ve always dreamed…that maybe one day I’d…do something…that let me cook.” Visibly relieved that she had it out in the open, she continued. “I love creating new and exciting dishes to eat or give away. I think I’m pretty decent at it too.”
“There you have it! There are so many things you can do with that gift. You can go to a Culinary Arts school, or just stay at home and practice and read books, work as a chef or baker somewhere…the opportunities are endless. And not all of them require higher education.”
“But…Mom and Dad won’t…?”
“Just tell them what I told you. You and I are different. Music is my gift and cooking is yours. It’s your life and you have dreams and expectations of your own. They may be a little surprised and even disappointed for a while, if you decide higher education isn’t for you, but they’ll come to understand and support your decision.”
Suddenly, Kathleen found herself enveloped in a tight hug from her little sister. “Thank you so much, Kathy! I needed to hear that and I feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to be just like you, regardless of what others think. I can be me! I can have my own life and dreams. I love you, Kathy. Thanks.”