Monday, October 2, 2017

Sisters Are Sanctuary (Or, Little Roomies Rule!)

I was thinking this morning about my younger sister Deborah who died on this day some 15-odd years ago.  (I try not to count.)  Of course, I think about her all the time.  And of course, I remember the exact day and time and place the whole earth cracked and heaved inside me and my knees buckled as I slid down the wall in that hateful, ugly hospital waiting room. I remember too vividly, that time when her leaving left so many of us feeling more shattered and bereft than should ever be possible.  I don't know how to not remember this heartache, (less than a decade after we lost our baby brother,) but I also remember all those years we had together in this wonderful earth life!

Deborah and I were roommates all the years we had growing up together (except for a few short spells we lived two to a room and we got all mixed around. I can't believe that was ever possible, actually, with seven children in one family.  There were certainly times we got creative, like making a sunporch into a bedroom, or a half-attic room with a bed, or sleeping in the den, etc.) We have three brothers, and I will have other stories about them in the future.

Our father was a rough-neck in the Texas/New Mexico/Colorado oil fields and we lived in a lot of places.  I'm saying, a LOT of places.  The first place I remember was a one-room apartment when there were only five of us children yet.  I don't remember feeling especially cramped, but I wasn't the mother.   

Then we lived several years in a house where the four of us girls had our own bunk beds in one room.  Even at that, we often slept two to a bed, because being little you can do that.  For a lark, some nights, someone would have a bright fun idea and exclaim, "Let's sleep sideways!"  That meant that all four of us would climb up to a top bunk and sleep sideways on the bed.  We were very flexible and wiry at that age. 

We always had our own special little possessions, and we shared toys and games, as well.  We had a little turn table that played 45s and 78s and 33 1/3s and loved to listen to Burl Ives and Frank Sinatra and Tchaikovsky and Claude King. 

We sat together on our parents' bed sorting through a box of old pictures, talking about people we had never met as though we knew them intimately, such was the frequency and enjoyment of hauling that box down from the closet shelf.

We had friends and school and Christmas and sadness and wonder and dolls and skates and hoola hoops and night games and vaccinations.  We climbed trees and built forts in the limbs...and sometimes even fell out of them.  We walked on stilts, rode bikes, bounced on moon shoes and ran barefoot through the summers all around town.  We swam and hunted bull frogs, read comic books and chapter books, slept outside on cots, hammered black walnuts to make ice cream, rode other peoples' horses bareback and saddled, climbed haystacks, loved a Marmalade cat named Tiger and a scrappy black and brown mutt named Teddy.

We camped and fished and inner-tubed down snowy hills and rocky rivers, shopped at candy stores, ate spudnuts and corn on the cob and hot chiles, went to football games and scouting events, got cars and shared them and broke them or lighted fires in them (all accidents, of course!)

Then we grew up, ventured out on our own and came back to live with each other some more in various combinations of sisters with their children.  Deborah mothered others from the time she was a toddler, including rescuing families in need when she was a teenager until after she had her own daughter and step-granddaughter.  She and Jillian were and are a force permeating the lives of any and all who know them.  To know them together is to know unadulterated longing and belonging.

We had life and we had each other.  And we still miss Deborah so much it takes our breath away, sometimes.



Cherrie Lee


Penny and Deborah with their parents


Trish said...

Who would dare ask for a more perfect childhood?

Christyna Hengstler said...

Oh Penny! I love to read your stories! And even better when I can "hear" you through your words.