Column: The footprints behind me

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Column: The footprints behind me

"I’ve been with her every step of the way, and it’s bitter-sweet to know this stage of life will soon close. With college on the horizon and a whole new future laid out in front of me, it’s hard to imagine my life without Ruby there right beside me."

Lulu Butler

"I’ve been with her every step of the way, and it’s bitter-sweet to know this stage of life will soon close. With college on the horizon and a whole new future laid out in front of me, it’s hard to imagine my life without Ruby there right beside me."

Lulu Butler

Lulu Butler

"I’ve been with her every step of the way, and it’s bitter-sweet to know this stage of life will soon close. With college on the horizon and a whole new future laid out in front of me, it’s hard to imagine my life without Ruby there right beside me."

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There’s a song I listen to probably once or twice a week titled “Footprints” by Molly Kate Kestner and, through tears, I manage to sing along almost every time. It opens with:

“Mom and dad told me when you were on the way, they wouldn’t love me any less. 

Well I didn’t believe them. 

I thought you’d take my place.

I didn’t know a best friend’s what I’d get.”

Although at 4-years-old I wasn’t too fond of sharing the spotlight, my parents excitedly announced that I would soon have a baby sister- just like my baby dolls- but real. I was sold. I don’t remember loving anyone- excluding my family of course – as much as I loved that newborn baby. I adored her. We were inseparable from the day she was born, and 13 years later, nothing has changed.

My sister Ruby.

She’s the beautiful blondie with legs up to the sky and a personality almost as big as her heart. Ruby never fails to make you laugh until you pee your pants and is a constant reminder that life can be about as fun as you make it. She’s the one most likely wearing my clothes more than her own and the reserved Maid of Honor at my future wedding. She’s the best person to ride in the car with (while screaming “Thank You, Next” by Ariana Grande) and my favorite shopping buddy. She’s the one I share my highs and my lows with, my greatest life experiences, and my hardest trials. But most importantly, she’s my best friend.

Lulu Butler
4-year-old Lulu poses with little sister Ruby hours after she was born.

As a little kid growing up, I never had one specific “best friend” I was close to in school. I was friends with lots of people, but I never shared this special bond like many kids at my school did. As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I never longed for this because Ruby fulfilled that role, as she has doubled in being both a sister and a best friend to me. We’ve learned to argue like best friends, support each other like best friends, and, most importantly, succeed together as best friends.

The chorus of the song continues with:

“You can follow my footprints,

But you don’t have to fill my shoes.

It’s just a path for you to follow, if you so choose.

You can take the road less traveled.

Yead, I’d probably do that, too.

But if you’re lost and feeling broken, through and through,

You can follow the footprints I left for you.”

From a young age, I understood my role as “the big sister,” and I have loved every second of it. I’ve taught Ruby about everything–from threading your eyebrows and finding the best drugstore mascara to handling hard friendships and navigating through personal trials. I’ve left a good share of “footprints” for her to follow since the day she was born and have made mistakes along the way she’ll hopefully learn from. 

I’ve been with her every step of the way, and it’s bitter-sweet to know this stage of life will soon close. With college on the horizon and a whole new future laid out in front of me, it’s hard to imagine my life without Ruby there right beside me. I find myself panicking and wanting to squeeze in every last moment with her. 

How can I go off to college without my best friend? How will I help her? How will I teach her now? 

As the older sister, I’ve always known I’ve needed to protect her, guide her, and set an example for her to follow, but I never fully realized just how much of an example Ruby has also become to me. She’s taught me more than I could have ever imagined. From Ruby I’ve learned passion, hard work, and joy. I’ve experienced what it is to be both a sister and a friend. Most importantly, she’s taught me that life is about sharing happiness with others and serving those around you. Looking back, I’ve needed Ruby every bit as much as she’s needed me.

The song closes with:

“And if one day you run right past me

Chasing down your dreams, 

I hope that I can look ahead

And you turn and say to me,

‘You can follow my footprints’…”

Although what the future holds in store for us is unknown as our childhood chapter closes, of this I’m certain: our footprints will never stray too far apart.