Jessi was known to me and my family as my "little big half-sister." "Little," because she was shorter than I (amazing that anyone could be shorter than I, but there was a time...), "big," because she was older than I, and "half-sister," because we hit it off immediately, and became inseparable. She and I did children's theatre together in the summer I was 11 years old.
I remember so many things about Jessi: staying at her house and watching "Jaws," though we were too young; that she had a younger brother named Noah, that she would have gone to George Mason High School, which is now less than two miles from my house; that she was a wonderful actress, even as a kid; that she wanted to name her first child "James Henson [Whatever]," in honor of the Muppets' creator; and that she moved to Reno where her dad was a floor manager at Harrah's.
When she moved away, we wrote back and forth a lot. I've saved many of her letters. The return address was always, "Your little big 1/2 sister." She was a much better correspondent than I was; I was great at thinking up things to tell her, but terrible at putting pen to paper. (If only it had been the texting era, at which I excel - even email might have been easier!) This distressed her, and eventually, she stopped writing altogether.
I didn't meet the woman who would eventually become my lifelong best friend until a bit later, but our relationship is incredibly strong to this day; we can go weeks or months without being in contact, then pick up the phone or send an email/text, and it's as if no time has passed. This is a huge difference from the irritation that dissolved my contact with Jessi; I was a kid with horrible follow-up, and she decided I was too much of a one-sided friend.
Of course, I've tried to find her. I seem to recall her wanting to go to college in Ann Arbor, and I've tried to decipher the profile pictures of every "Jessica Phillips" on FB or LinkedIn, to no avail. I've tried searching George Mason grads and people from Reno. I've tried looking up her Dad through Harrah's. In this age of Internet Invasion of Privacy, she seems to have accomplished the impossible: she has completely disappeared without a trace.
Occasionally, my mom or dad will ask, "Have you ever heard from Jessi Phillips?" And I'll have to say no, that I've tried looking, but she is just nowhere to be found. I even have located, and still keep up with, at least four other people from that same long-ago production, but Jessi... I wish I could find her. I'd love to introduce her to my husband and son. I would love to know if she did have a child named "James Henson [Whatever]" (such a cool idea... and yes, I've tried searching that, too). Did she keep up with acting? Did she become a lawyer? Is she happy?
Mostly, I would just love to see her again. To sit down over coffee and laugh, and talk, and catch up. To tell stupid jokes and show her the old letters. To giggle and reminisce. To apologize for being such a crappy correspondent in my teens. And to know how, in the age of super-snooping, she managed to erase her digital footprint.