Warrior Words: Last name legacy
“Hoffman? As in, Maddie and Emily Hoffman?”
Every first day, without fail. Before I have even said “here,” I watch my teachers’ eyes glaze over while they dive deep into their mental Rolodex of students to find the memories of my two sisters. They often smile or offer me an amusing anecdote before moving on. Maddie and Emily are four and eight years older than me, respectively. Our age differences meant that we did not overlap for a single year in school, and therefore we had relatively separate experiences educationally. Still, I had the task of following up what I saw to be an academic legacy, with my brilliant, focused, and hardworking sisters unintentionally creating massive shadows that I was worried I would fail to outrun.
Intimidated but entranced, I listened as Emily rattled off the names of the dozens of books she had recently read and marveled at the shiny medals she brought through the door after particularly successful ski races. Maddie captivated me as she spun across the stage in every Wilton High School production and gave me chills as she read me beautiful parts of her essays for classes I would one day take. We were certainly close; the three of us spent hours together watching old classic films on rainy days, exploring every foot of our backyard when the sun was blazing, cooking and baking through the snow days, and debating anything and everything, all the time. Just as any little sister would, I dreamed that one day I would know what it was like to be just like them. I was awestruck by their accomplishments and jealous of the obvious impact that they made on the community.
However, I have now finished my time at Wilton High School, and I can reflect on the importance of legacy with a little bit less of a doe-eyed expression on my face. I look back and see where my own path intersected with or diverged from my sisters, and while we have certainly overlapped in many places, I can safely say that I had a completely different experience in this town, and I have yet to become the exact replica of them. Have I failed my eight-year-old self?
The obvious answer is no. I have succeeded by growing into my own person, and they have moved far beyond their high school identities. Now that we are all somewhat resembling adults, I can clearly see that their years since graduating high school really define the reasons why I am so proud of them. I got teary eyed at Maddie’s college graduation thinking back to how much all three of us have changed over the years. Graduation after graduation, we all say goodbye to who we used to be and prepare to find out who we are. My father’s girlfriend’s children have also taught me more than I can articulate, and I am so lucky to learn from Hayley and Tyler as they take on every challenge they have faced since leaving this town with tenacity and resourcefulness. Yes, Wilton grows and fosters us, but it is really there to give us the tools we need to leave and live inquisitively, courageously, and creatively.
Today, Emily guides me to be a better person as she exudes compassion for the people she loves, fosters a constant willingness to try something new, and works harder than anyone I know. Maddie boldly embraces what she is passionate about, strives for excellence in every aspect of her life, and takes on her new role as my own personal super hero as she prepares to go to Officer Candidates School in July where she will ultimately be commissioned into the Marine Corps. I am off to Scotland, where I will be attending University of Saint Andrews. I will miss being surrounded by my family, a group of people known for their beauty, brilliance, strength, and kindness, and I can only hope my legacy in Wilton holds up nearly as wonderfully as theirs did.
Four years ago, my sister wrote her final Warrior Words article. Fourteen-year-old Lydia smiled widely as spread out the enormous Wilton Bulletin on the counter. She titled it “For My Sisters,” and I wanted to borrow the words she used to conclude her article to end my own.
“We will never leave the people we once were and will never abandon what we taught each other along the way, so as rites of passage are completed, tassels moved from one side to another, we can march forward hand in hand, as we take on the future with the young girls within us, who learned first to dream and then to do, moving in every stride.”
Thank you to my sisters, to my mom and dad, their partners, and their children for letting me follow you. I hope I’ve made you proud.
Lydia Hoffman is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with five classmates.