When my brother and I were 6 and 7, respectively, my parents sat us down on their bed and told us we were going to have a baby sister. My mom asked us what we thought they should name the baby (my parents were big believers in children at least feeling like they were participating in big decisions). I don’t remember my suggestion, but my brother wanted to name her “Rocket Girl.”

My parents went with “Virginia,” but in retrospect we should have listened to my brother. Rocket Girl graduated from the University of Maine (Honors College!) this past week, a member of the class of 2022.

I’ve always joked that, as the older sister, I was the first draft and my sister was the final, superior product. The thing is, it’s not really a joke. My sister is better than me at just about everything, by all objective and scientifically measurable standards. She’s taller, smarter, more ambitious, more accomplished and a better driver. And she’s a redhead. You might think I’d be jealous, but I’m not. (Except for the height thing.) Being almost eight years older than she is, I just get a quasi-parental glow of pride whenever she does yet another cool thing. Now, I’m not saying she’s completely flawless. She spends way too much money at Aroma Joe’s. She’s terrible with directions – and I don’t just mean “reading a map” directions, I mean she’s constantly mixing up left and right. And she won’t stop trying to steal my clothes, which is weird because we aren’t the same size or even shape.

Our dad died at the beginning of her senior year of high school (as if being 17 weren’t hard enough). I spent the next several months on the couch drinking boxed wine, listening to Tom Petty (no, I can’t explain it) and generally being a sad alcoholic sack of grief. Virginia organized a walkout-voter registration event to protest gun violence in her high school, which made local news; was invited to speak onstage at the 2018 Maine Democratic Convention; held down a part-time dishwashing job at the Barron Center in Portland (where she once got a guy fired for using racial slurs in the workplace), and was selected to be a delegate to the United States Senate Youth Program in Washington, D.C., an honor given to exactly two students per state per year. And my baby sister was one of them.

Even with the COVID pandemic taking a chunk out of her traditional college experience, she’s done even more cool stuff since then. She traveled to Kosovo to conduct research on genocide. She was vice president of the Maine College Democrats. She raised a ton of money for St. Jude’s Hospital with her sorority (Tri Delta!). She’s become financially independent and works almost as many hours as I do. And for the past several years she has dealt with people constantly mixing her up with me, and she’s remained gracious to everyone who has ever said “Oh, Virginia Hugo-Vidal? I love your column in the paper!” That’s all right with me. She’ll probably get me back by being elected senator, and then everyone will be constantly mixing me up with her. Fortunately, I’ve been preparing my whole life to be her Billy Carter.

Possibly her most impressive feat has been keeping Buddy alive. Let me tell you about Buddy.

Virginia adopted Buddy in December 2020. At the time, Buddy was 13 years old, which is pretty old, even for a shih tzu. Buddy is also blind, deaf, missing some teeth, unable to be neutered because of a heart murmur, arthritic and afflicted with a skin condition that requires him to have weekly medicated baths. And he’s had recurrent ear infections. Also, I’m pretty sure he has sleep apnea. And yet not only is Buddy still alive, but he also is actually thriving, to the fullest extent that it is physically possible for him to thrive. He’s even got his own wardrobe of tiny sweaters so he can match what my sister is wearing on any given day (they are a medical necessity, or so Virginia insists).

I don’t know what my sister plans to do next, now that she’s graduated. Our family has been forbidden, on pain of certain death, from inquiring as to her next steps. But I do know that whatever she does, she will be the best at it, and wherever she goes, I will be right behind her.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial


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