As you already know if you can do simple math, 1976 marked the United States Bicentennial, which I'm certain meant extra-elaborate festivities on the 4th of July, though I don't remember them. On the 3rd of July that same year, though I don't remember this either, I got my first sibling and very oldest friend, Molly.
Waking up on her second day in the outside world to massive celebration undoubtedly left its mark on my sister, who is the only person I can think of who would have thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention at something like a menarche party. (Sidebar: this is on my mind only because my friend's little cousin was subjected to that very thing last night, and while my hippie self thinks it's a great idea, the reality is that the kid was apparently mortified about the whole thing. Anyway.) For many years of her life, I'm certain Mol thought that all the fireworks and parades were for her.
It's a weird and cool experience to become adult enough to realize that you look up to your younger siblings, which I most definitely do. There has always been plenty to admire about Molly--her affectionate nature, her social ease, her talent, her beauty--but as we've grown older and the 22 month age difference between us has dwindled to total insignificance, I often find myself feeling like she's the older sister. I suppose that's because she took on a lot of grown-uppy stuff at a fairly young age and is now the awesome mother of an incredibly impressive brood of shorties. But it's also because she's so good at welcoming and encouraging people and taking charge. These traits make her both a delightful host and an excellent teacher. In both roles, she's the most genuinely warm and and enthusiastic person you can imagine.
She is also formidable. I don't recommend delivering subpar service to her. She will smile sweetly and inform you that she is taking her business elsewhere and explain exactly why. If she sees you acting sketchy with your kids or around any kids at all, she'll most likely call the cops. If I were giving out awards to my friends I might give her Most Likely to Make a Citizen's Arrest. She's the one who originated the job title "Judge of All Things," which I have occasionally used on internet profiles of myself.
I can go on and on about how rad Molly is and what a powerful influence she has on the people who get pulled into her orbit, but I don't really have words for how I feel about her. I'm the oldest kid; I know there was a time when I was the only one around, the center of my own universe and everyone else's, but I don't remember that time. Happy birthday, Molly. I forgive you for your NKOTB obsession and for taking all of my clothes without asking all through high school.