Saturday, March 14, 2009


“How do people make it through life without a sister?” – Sara Corpening

I have two sisters, an older sister, Marybeth, she is three-and-a-half years older than me. And my younger sister, Diane, is fifteen months younger than me, Diane and I were more like twins growing up. My Mom almost always dressed us in identical outfits (sometimes different colors though, Diane was usually in pink, and I was usually in blue) and everyone thought we were twins. We did everything together until the dreaded day I had to start school and Diane could still stay at home where our world was fun and safe. And I think being separated from Diane was worse than the separation from my Mom or my home. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought of school as so awful if I could have had my Diane by my side as usual. Diane was my reassurance, she was my confidence, a big part of me was missing without Diane, and I had a hard time functioning without her, in fact, at that time I felt like if there was no Diane, there was no me.
Diane and I did everything together for as long as I can remember, in fact, I cannot remember a time when she did not exist in my life. She was my first playmate and my first friend. My very first memories of her were from when we were not much more than toddlers, I can remember my mother giving us spoons to dig out in the dirt in the backyard, and my Mom would add a little water into the holes we had dug so that we could make mud pies, and Diane would always take her spoonful of dirt and eat it! I remember running back into the house to tell my mother, “She’s eating dirt again!” My Mom told me we weren’t more than about two and three years old at the time.
Diane and I had the same friends, and we enjoyed playing the same games, we got our Shirley Temple dolls on the same Christmas morning, and our Mom brought us home our first Barbie Dolls on the same day. We collected Troll dolls together and we made homes for them out of cardboard boxes, and clothes out of pieces of cloth we bought at Woolworth’s. We put pajama bottoms on our heads and played bride or nun. We learned to ride bikes together. And we shared a room together until the day I got married.
It was not all a bed of roses of course, we did fight like cats and dogs sometimes. But mostly I remember Diane as my defender, my protector, my guardian, my solace, my ally, my advocate, my pal, my companion, my comrade, my helper, my support, my friend. Diane has seen me through almost every good and every not so good moment of my life.
Being closer in age to Diane also made me closer to her emotionally than I was to my sister Marybeth, but I did feel close to Marybeth too, especially after we moved away from our old house. Marybeth was thirteen at that time and I looked up to her and I tried to be like her in many ways, especially as I approached my own teen years (setting my hair with orange juice cans and gigantic rollers, making gum wrapper chains, scrapbooking every President Kennedy card Marybeth could lay her hands on [they were like baseball cards], experimenting with make-up, starting a diary just like Marybeth, and borrowing her clothes). And as we got older Marybeth and I grew even closer. Marybeth was a more private person, and she liked to keep to herself a lot. Being older she had her own room when we moved to the ‘new’ house, and she liked to spend time alone, and she of course kept company with friends much older than Diane and I. So while we were never playmates, we were close, and we were friends, and I always felt that I could go to her with anything, and that I could confide in her. Marybeth was exceptionally smart in school and she won all sorts of awards while I found school to be a constant struggle. Marybeth was always willing to help me with my homework, school projects, and theme papers. And I had a lot of fun with Marybeth too, some of the memories I have that make me laugh out loud are due to Marybeth. I remember for my thirteenth birthday I had gotten thirteen dollars from my grandparents and I decided that I was going to use that money to buy a chocolate layer cake from a neighborhood bakery every Saturday morning for as long as the money lasted (I think the cakes at that time were about two or three dollars). Marybeth was very enthusiastic about that idea and said she’d make the trip with me each Saturday and I said that I would share the cake with her. My birthday is in January, and it was very cold, windy, and snowing the first Saturday we attempted to buy the cake. We were freezing and neither one of us was dressed for the weather, no hats, no scarves, no gloves (we were too cool for those things), so Marybeth decided that we should stop into a glass phone booth we saw along the way to get out of the wind. We go in and close the door and huddle together, and Marybeth is saying to me, “See, this is much better. Isn’t this better?” And, I’m just thinking, no, I’m still freezing, it’s still windy, what is she talking about? And then I notice that all the glass in the booth had been broken out - and I say, “Marybeth! There’s no glass in this booth! No wonder it’s still windy!” And Marybeth starts laughing so hard that she’s falling out of the booth, and then she says she’s laughing too much, and she’s too cold now, and she has to go to the bathroom! So we didn’t make it to the bakery on our first attempt that day, but we did go each Saturday for weeks afterwards, and they were some of the most prized times spent with my big sister and I hold them dear to my heart.
It’s really the ‘nothing’ time spent with my sisters (along with my brothers and cousins), the shared ‘first’ experiences, and the routine of our daily life as kids that I value most. Using old popsicle sticks to scrape tar off the street, making snow forts in the backyard, sledding down Dead Man’s Hill, keeping a scrapbook of the ‘Family Circus’ cartoons from the newspaper, playing with our paper doll cut-outs, the thrill of Silly Putty, piggy-back rides, hopscotch, roller-skating (with the old clunky clamp skates that needed keys!), coloring, taking a walk to the candy store, watching TV together, all the nothing things that are more precious than gold.
I don’t think my sisters realize how much they mean to me, I love them both so very much. These two sisters, Marybeth and Diane, I was Blessed with them from the beginning of my life. But then there are the Blessings I gained later in life. My sister Susie (my husband’s sister really), is responsible for restoring my soul. She took what was in shreds and made it whole. I am indebted to her.
And I love spending time with Susie, and we don’t have to be doing anything at all for me to have fun with her. In fact, we’re both happy just to sit on the couch with a cup of coffee, or run around my house after the grandkids, I never get bored in her company and we never seem to run out of things to talk about. I love that she comes over every Wednesday and she'll treat me and the grandkids to McDonald's if the weather isn't cooperating, but if it's nice, we'll walk to the diner for lunch. It's a visit I look forward to each week.
Then there’s Ann, my brother Tom’s ex-wife, she joined our family when I was about fifteen. Ann fit into our family right away, and when she and my brother Tom went their separate ways, Ann stayed. Enough said. Rhoda is my brother John’s wife, and sadly, there was a falling-out in the family a few years back, and Rhoda doesn’t speak to many of us anymore, but she’s still my sister, and I still love her. My friend Barbara, my soul sister, we met when our youngest sons were in Kindergarten together, that was almost twenty years ago. I bonded with Barbara instantaneously. We met while doing ‘security duty’ at school, I remember Barbara was taking classes at the time, she had brought some schoolwork to do, but I talked so much that she ended up closing her book. The next time we were on duty together she had a newspaper with her, but again, I talked her ear off and she gave up on reading her newspaper. And I think the next time we were on duty, she only brought a cup of coffee with her. We started making sure that we would be paired up for security duty after that, and even when we weren’t doing security we would meet after dropping the boys at school and then go to Mass together, and we’d walk home, stopping at the corner where we’d have to go our separate ways, but we’d linger there for hours just chattering away. She and I have shared so much, and we’ve seen each other through a lot over the years. Just today she said to me, “Let’s enjoy the calm now.” I told her not to jinx us! And she said she better knock wood, and she corrected herself and said, “Let’s enjoy the calm before the next storm comes our way.” Our lives are so busy now, but we still keep in touch with phone calls and emails, and we steal a few hours every now and then for a quick shopping spree, or a quick stop at Applebees for coffee and those shooters for dessert (let's skip the lunch and go right to dessert!). I can’t imagine my life without her, and it’s hard to think that she wasn’t here all along. Then there’s my friends/sisters Jan and Ellen, and Debbie, such wonderful friendships that grew into sisterhood. And there are friends from my childhood, and grade school, and high school, Donna Di, and Donna C., and Gloria, and Susan, and so many more, all gathered in my heart. All who have added so much to my life, sisters that I will carry with me always. They have sustained me throughout my childhood and into maturity, these sisters of mine. I am so fortunate, I am so privileged, I am so Blessed to have these sisters.

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