My sister is a wife and a mother of two, but when I look at her I still see pigtails.

New Year’s Eve—Sacred Heart Hospital, the pediatric unit.

Tonight the whole world is celebrating. I can already hear firecrackers in the distance. But on the third floor, the women in my life are gathered around a sick baby.

My sister’s daughter, Lucy, was born ten days ago. She was dainty, tranquil, and she smelled like all babies do. But last night, she was admitted into the hospital with viral meningitis.

Doctors fitted her with an IV in her scalp, an oxygen nose piece, and they’re monitoring her heart.

So, while a big ball drops in Times Square, my sister holds Lucy.

My sister has cried a lot today. And I wish there were something I could do to make her feel better, but I‘m just a big brother. Big brothers can’t do much but ask the lady in the cafeteria, “More fries, please?”

A gentle knock on the door.

The nurse enters. She’s got a sunny personality. She checks monitors, administers a blood gas, she is smiling a lot. She refers

to my sister as “Mama.”

That word.

My sister is a wife and a mother of two, but when I look at her I still see pigtails.

To me, she’s the girl who watched cartoons on Saturdays, eating Captain Crunch. The girl who ran barefoot. The teenager who worked at Chik-fil-A, who let me use her employee discount.

I remember when I was sixteen, she was a child. She awoke one night screaming. She clutched her side and howled, writhing on the floor.

“What’s wrong?” I shouted

“I’m dying!” she said.

My mother came running. She touched my sister’s belly. She thought my sister might be suffering from severe constipation.

“Are you eating plenty of fiber?” my mother asked.

“I’m dying!” my sister shouted.

“Wait here while I get the castor oil.”