Friday, March 15, 2019

Guest Post by Elizabeth, the Sister of the Blog

I just called Sarah to ask her for some quippy quotes to use in this post. She’s on vacation in West Virginia. She seems to be bouncing back and forth between pleasure with her temporary digs and sorrow at missing her cats. So I sent her a picture of a Hallmark card that says,

“You’re one day
closer to becoming a cat lady.”

She hasn't answered my calls. But, now that I think about it, how could she possibly answer calls while participating in such an action-packed vacation? Yesterday, she sent me a slide show featuring a trip itinerary. Meticulously organized events squish together in tiny, typewriter font. The shower schedule, menu options, dates and times of fun activities, and carefully delineated slots of free time weave up and down across the page. It's a wonder to behold.

Virginia may be for lovers. But West Virginia is apparently for the extraordinarily well-organized.

Of course, it should have been clear that she wouldn’t be available for any calls because I’ve just referred to that itinerary. According to today’s rundown of activities, someone in the family is tasked with picking up the week’s pictures from Walgreens. Since Sarah’s dedication to #theWalgreenslife is well documented, it’s safe to assume who is running that errand.

Frankly, I enjoy referencing the vacation schedule. Knowing what Sarah is doing at all hours of the day and night gives me no end of delight.  It feels deliciously clandestine, James Bondesque, and curiouser than People magazine. It's the best version of raising one blind slat to watch the neighbors bring home their in-laws(something Sarah has been often been known to do) and I enjoy lifting the slat on her. I've momentarily allowed myself to hope she’ll keep up the trend when she arrives home. Too bad it will never happen.

I guess that’s the scintillating stuff this blog provides. Let's keep refreshing the page, shall we?

There is something besides this site that’s refreshing over and over--legends of our youth. These stories could do with a retelling. I’ve gathered two, wiped away the dust from the details, and clacked a few down here. We might grow old, but they certainly do not.

The Unexpected Garden Party

It is generally understood among we four siblings that Sarah is the golden child. The idea has so much data to back it up that resistance is futile. While Aaron and I often found ourselves sitting on a stubby and wobbly stool, waiting for Mom to pronounce our fate, Sarah flitted sweetly through the kitchen singing hymns.

She also found ways to make people happier at the end of their day than they were at the beginning. Was it someone’s birthday? She remembered to celebrate it. Did someone lose a box of Polly Pockets? She remembered to return them. Was someone’s sad? She’d feel sad with them. Sarah knew how to be good and she did it with finesse.

That is, until the unexpected garden party.

We were little, then. Dan, the oldest, might have just reached the age of twelve. This makes Aaron and I two and Sarah seven.  One day, out of what seemed like nowhere to us, Mom sent Daniel, Andrew, Aaron, and I scurrying outside without explanation. She told us not to come in for a few minutes. Then, she closed the door and went inside with Sarah.

In a fog, we made our way around the yard, kicking sticks and peeling bits of paint off the side of the shed. Listlessly, we made our way the vegetable garden. We stood in the middle of the empty, raised square of dirt, woebegone and baffled. One of our own had fallen. What would become of us? What would become of her?

Andrew spoke finally. “ Sarah getting a….a... timeout?”

“Sarah doesn’t do wrong things!” Aaron was adamant. Then, “....does she?”

His voice squeaked like the rusty door on our mailbox.

We looked at each other with wide eyes. Shock nearly sent us over the edge of the raised garden bed full of wild zucchini plans and into the weeds below.  We pooled our collective memories and couldn't produce a time when Sarah had gotten a punishment. We did not even know she could.

To this day, I don’t know what Sarah did wrong. Even Mother of the Blog Barbara doesn't remember.

Sarah might have left the lunch apples unwashed while she poured all her girlish passion into mentally composing a scathing speech she might unleash in defense of a family member but probably wouldn't because she'd be too shy. Or she might have lost a library book while delivering an ornately colored church bulletin to a favorite birthday celebrant. Since then, though, she’s taken great pride in returning her library books on time and in pristine condition. She'd polished all Granny Smiths and Macintoshes on her shirt, at the very least. "Who knows who or what has touched these!?"

Our days of unexpected garden parties are over, which I take to mean that Sarah’s short run-in with mistakes is also over. The memory of that Autumn day in the vegetable garden has only just begun.

The Catch of a Lifetime  

The night before we went camping, Mother of the Blog Barbara would pack into the wee hours of the night. Long after sending us to bed, she’d drag our large, blue and white cooler across the kitchen floor downstairs and clink lanterns together as she carried three in each hand out our the rusty blue fifteen passenger van. On this particular camping trip, she remembered to pack the fishing poles and the fishing hooks. Boy howdy, she remembered the fish hooks.

After we’d arrived at the campground and set up our tents, we spent a few days blissfully. We sat as close as we could to the fire, enjoying the rare treat of warming our sneakers in front of an open flame. We canoed up the river and got stuck, leaving Daniel and Andrew to carry us back down the river. Every tiny, summerish thing filled us with wonder. Until we went fishing.

Full of ambition, Sarah and I stood on the edge of Smiling Pond. I watched her admiringly from behind.  Sarah, with the fishing skill of Serena Williams on the tennis court, swung her pole behind her and whipped it forward with passion. Unfortunately, her hook got stuck. It stuck in my scalp.

Sarah might have screamed. She might have rushed over to me and parted my curls to see if she really had caught a girl instead of a fish. But all I remember is kneeling by the side of a main road, fairly sure that the Pepperidge Farms tractor-trailer truck would squish me like as flat as a chocolate chip cookie. I was sure that, if a person could die of getting fished, I was on my way out.

After a trip to the emergency room where a doctor removed the hook from my scalp, we ended our fishing expedition and headed back to the campsite. And now I get to remember something else. Sarah sat on the steps of the camper next to me. While I sucked on a watermelon lollipop from a sympathetic nurse, Sarah shyly wrapped my soft blanket around my shoulders. “I’m sorry I wasn’t looking when I was fishing,” she said. “I didn’t know you were back there.” I sucked on my lollipop. She said, “But I’ll watch for you now. I’ll always watch for you.”

And she always has.

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