Two years ago, when my little sister had her (ahem!) most significant birthday yet, I wrote about her, in what I think was one of my best posts ever. Now, two years later, as we slip into that time of life where we spend a great deal of time caring for our parents as they once cared for us, I’ve spent significant hours with all of my siblings. When we get together as we did last week, and the week before, it’s frequently at my sister’s house. And unfortunately, it usually at the end of a day spent sitting by a bedside or waiting for the outcome of a test. But believe it or not, these are good times. The World’s Smartest Sister is also one of the world’s greatest cooks, especially if greatness is measured in quantity! (And of course by that I mean generosity).
As I wrote two years ago, the World’s Smartest Sister was from the very beginning an independent soul marching to the beat of her own drummer. So frequently at these gatherings, she regales us with tales of our childhood as she recalls it. Sometimes the recollections matched everyone else’s, sometimes they don’t But they’re always fairly entertaining. Eyes will roll; sides will split; thighs will be slapped; tears will roll down faces. Sometimes the stories are long sort of involved ones that you really had to be there to understand.
Once for example, she told the story of what had happened when one of the four of us (make that one of the three of us–I clearly was not guilty!) had broken a vase in the living room while playing. When all four of us were interrogated by our mother, no one would admit to the deed. So Mom resorted to a trick that I think she had seen on Gunsmoke. She said, “You know my grandmother was an Indian [which is likely true].” And she went to the kitchen and returned with a spatula. She made us kneel before her. She explained that in the kitchen she had heated the spatula on the stove. She said that each of us was to stick out our tongues and she would touch our tongues with the spatula. According to an old Indian tradition that she supposedly had learned from her grandmother, one who was telling the truth would not be burned, but one who was lying would surely be seared. I chuckled about this, because I knew two things: first that I was not guilty; but more importantly, I could tell by looking at it that this spatula was still cold. As I was the oldest, Mom pressed the tool first into my tongue to which I had no reaction. She then moved on to my brother and he had no reaction. Our sister being third, began to tremble like a leaf before Mom had even got to her. Mom said “Why are you shaking?” Our sister said, “I don’t want to be burned! I don’t wanna be burned!” Whereupon Judge Mom pronounced her guilty without further proceedings. In fact my two brothers were the perps!
As she recounted this story my sister feigned indignation at the injustice done her. We all rolled off our chairs with laughter.
From time to time over the last several weeks, I found myself alone with the World’s Smartest Sister driving from here to there and listening as she ran down the list of questions that we should be sure to ask the doctors. Or reviewing a set of things that we should tell the nurses. In these moments she’s not the wide-eyed little girl rediscovering the world over and over again. She’s a levelheaded, mature and competent yet compassionate woman that she is in the real world. When I had a moment alone with my mother I said, referring to my sister, “You know, she may be the best of us.” It was a serious moment, and Mom somberly nodded her head.
Happy Birthday, sister!
December 1, 2009 Tuesday at 9:17 pm