Sister

Over forty years ago today (and just how much over, I’m not telling) I was given a new role in life.

To be

a big sister.

I got two more chances to do this over the years, but this first one–the one I asked my parents for–she was the first, the one I learned and practiced on.

Some days I’ve done a better job than others of being a sister.

What being a sister means and looks like has changed over the years.  Sometimes drastically.  What, when we were little, meant whispering secrets after bedtime or fighting over who had to turn off the light (she didn’t even have to leave her bed–not really sure WHY we had that argument so often) turned into her being there to encourage me and stand up for me and even help me pack the night before my graduation.  Help?  No, she pretty much did it.  All of it.  As we both grew older and had our own families, what sisterhood looked like changed again.

It’s always changing.

Because relationships are fluid.

And I think that can be really beautiful.

Because, though it’s fluid and changing, it still is.  The relationship is still there.

And as long as it is there, no matter how hard times might be or how much we struggle to find time to be together, there is hope. There is possibility for our relationship to grow and become even more precious.  And there is grace.

Tonight I am thankful for my little sister, who all too often has been a big sister to me.  She has never been afraid of the dark and time was, she’d take on a giant to defend me.  She loves hard with a gentle voice and a passionate soul.  I don’t remember life without her, since I was three when she was born–it’s as though she has always been a part of my story.  She grounds me, she loves me, and she walks alongside me.  Even when things fall apart or we argue or have doubts and frustrations, she is my sister, and that will always be one of the things I’m most thankful for in this life.

That and grace and hope.

Love to all.

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“Little Julia tending the baby at home”  By Lewis Hine, 1874-1940, photographer. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Day My Life Changed Forever

Forty-three years ago today, around 3:30 in the morning, my life changed forever.  I don’t remember what it was like before that day, but on that day, I became a sister.

For Sister, who was the one who made me just that…..for the very first time–

 

When you came into this world,

my life changed

for the better

There are photographs of us, your tiny hand in mine

and it’s as though it’s always been that way

You younger, smaller, and yet

so much stronger than you appeared

You’ve worked harder than most

to take the next step, to keep breathing

to forge your own path

walking to the beat of your own drum

and here we are

Grown.

 

With you I learned to share and play fair,

we learned to do that together,

and I don’t think we’ve really forgotten how,

have we?

All those years it made me smile

when folks realized you were mine

and I would have taken any one of them out

had they hurt you or said anything untoward

It is still that way,

but the lines

are blurred

between good guys and bad guys

and so it’s harder for me to know

how to make it all okay anymore

 

The words over the years,

some kind, some not

the laughter, the whispered secrets

the dreams shared and the sorrows as well

Your voice is a balm to my soul

and your laughter takes me to a place

where no pain can come

And yet we are so far from where we’ve been

The absence of those who held us together

makes it all so hard

Words, Weeping, Worries, Woes,

and yet, in my heart,

you are still the little one whom I threw up on when I was five,

who helped me up when I fell down,

and you are the one who packed my dorm room the

night before graduation

you are the sister I held in my arms

when the baby was coming

and when the baby didn’t

You gave me the gift of watching birth

and I hope always to remember

that precious moment,

all the precious moments

 

Over the years you have given me strength and love

and challenged me to stand up and say something

when it all was on the line

The grief has aged us both, weathered our faces

and our souls

One day, when all the rocky road of this journey is behind us,

I hope we find ourselves sitting together,

once again,

with your tiny hand in mine

 

where you find your treasure…..

This past Saturday was a beautiful day of weather very becoming to the month of March.  Or any month for that matter.  A day like that–we’ll take it any time we can get it.  Temperature in the low 70’s, light breeze, gorgeous sky and shining sun.

But Mess Cat and I were inside for much of the day.  Saturday was the day we loaded up things that had filled our Mama and Daddy’s home–the house we grew up in.  Mess Cat had packed up most of what needed boxing up all on her own.  A gift to the rest of us.  And one that should not be underestimated.  That girl can pack.  She is so organized.  Everything was labeled and taped and ready to go.  As the guys were taking things to the truck, my sister and I sat on the floor in the “big” room and went through the children’s books that had been read and loved and laughed over for many years.

Oh y’all.

For almost eighteen years, my Mama read stories to her grandchildren.  Before that she read to us and to nieces and nephews and neighbors and children in classrooms in school and children at the library storytimes and anyone else who loved to hear a good story.  Reading was one of her most favorite things EVER. And sharing that love with others, especially children, that was her thing.  It’s where she shined brightest.

As we sat and looked through book after book–Little Golden books, Eric Carle, books by the Provensens, Little Critter and Pooh and Peanuts books, Choose Your Own Adventure books, stories about Cinderella from all over the world, books we grew up with and books that were acquired especially for the grands–memory after memory washed over us.  We sat quietly, each lost in her own memory of a story or the pictures that took us back thirty-five or forty years.  Ahem.  At other times, we laughed over a story that triggered a particular memory of Mama reading it.

And then there were the tears.

I held them back as long as I could, but they really had to come.

Because, in the midst of all that we have packed (okay mostly Mess Cat) and decided what to do about, the place where I felt my Mama the most–

it was in these books.

Tonight as I pulled my pan of baking sweet potatoes out of the oven, a smell wafted up to my nose and I was overwhelmed with the memory of coming into the house at Blackberry Flats years ago when I was only a little older than our Princess is now.  It was dark early and cold–the sun had set in true Wonderful World of Disney Technicolor fashion and all that was left to do was go in for the night.  Supper was in the oven, and coming in from outside, the heat of the oven enveloped me as I closed the door to the laundry room where the back door was.  In that moment tonight, I was home and eleven or twelve and all was safe and warm and right again.

And yes, there are tears.

But as much time as Mama spent in the kitchen, taking care of us and making us special treats–brownies or cookies or chewy bars (oh my gracious goodness)–I did not sense her as much there as I did in her books.

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It made me wonder where my people will “find” me one day.  Will it be in the kitchen?  Will it be as they go through my yarn stash? (ummm yeah, there’s some in the closet too–sorry y’all) Will it be in my books?  Or will it be when they close this laptop for the last time?

I find my greatest joy in my people and words.  The folks who are mine.  The words in books and the words I piece together to share my thoughts and stories.  Is that where they will feel me close?

Tonight I am thankful for the time with my sister.  For the joy of sharing memories and laughter and the times we had to look away to keep from falling into each other’s arms, crying the tears that have threatened to surface since we told Mama goodbye.  I give thanks for the grace and love of a sister.  One who loves you even when you’re being a jerk and always shows up.  No matter what.  One who loves you so much she gives you the gift of her time and energy and effort.  Because she knows you can’t anymore.

I am most thankful for the books that Mama held close that now hold her close and share her memory with anyone who reads them.  The sweet pictures, the funny stories, the great way Mama made a book come to life with her voice and intonations and peeking over her glasses.  I miss that so much.  She gave a love of reading to each one of my children and to so many others.  That’s a legacy that is priceless.

Just like her.

Love to all.  May you find your day filled with a great story.

LOL…..just don’t cut it

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This afternoon my middle sister called.  She had a few minutes and wanted to share something that had happened in her adventures in homeschooling.  She got tickled as she told it.  So much so that her giggling overcame her voice, and she had to give into it for a moment.  Which started me laughing.  And before we knew it, we were both laughing and stumbling over words and neither could really understand the other.

Good, no, GREAT stuff.

See, we haven’t had a lot to laugh about together lately.  So much has gone on in the past four months, so much worrying, so much sorrow, so much business to tend to, so much to decide about.  And in all that I have missed her laughter.  Especially when it overtakes her story.  My Aunt says I do the same thing sometimes, that it reminds her of Mama.  Funny how I spent most of my life not wanting to turn into Mama, and now a random comment like that…..it becomes a treasure to hold onto.   I should be so lucky as to turn out like my Mama.

I wonder if the overwhelming laughter could be genetic because my Aub does the same thing sometimes, as she shares her stories.  She’s really good at that–sharing her stories.  I don’t take that lightly.  That’s another treasure.  And we can “lafe and lafe” as Andy Griffith might say.  It can take us quite a while to get through one story sometimes, just because of the laughter.

As I went on my walk tonight, I was thinking about my sweet neighbor who is moving soon.  Oh, how I will miss her!  We spend pretty afternoons standing in her yard or mine while our littles play, chatting about our days, our families, our children, our dreams, or what’s for supper.  We have texted about this and that from time to time, but our relationship consists mostly of face to face, can I borrow an egg or a can of tomatoes, real-life conversations.  And now we won’t have that.  I made a promise to myself tonight, thinking of my sister and her precious laughter, that I won’t let my relationship with my neighbor and friend become a texting or e-mail or facebook relationship only.  I love her laughter, and I love hearing her stories.  I hope we will be able to make time for regular phone calls and for visits when they come to town.

I am very thankful for the benefits of modern technology as I’ve said before, but I do think it has done us a disservice on this front.  So much of our communication with others is by text or e-mail.  I am guilty of this too.  Oh sure, we 🙂 and LOL, but there is nothing like a hearty guffaw in your ear when you are on the phone or right in front of you when you are sitting with a friend.  I love the camaraderie of laughing with someone until tears are rolling down my face.  And believe me, that’s the stuff that joy and healing are made of.  Honest to goodness Laughing.  Out.  Loud. Together.  That’s the best right there.  LOL just don’t cut it.