Tag Archives: Sisters

Bearings

Bearings

“I’ve lost my bearings,” she said to me, perplexed. She was sitting alone in her room, surrounded by piles of clothing on the bed and floor around her—the collapsed small tents of abandoned full skirts, the shards of scarves and small mismatched clutterings of shoes.

She had been abandoned in a daydream world that only she lived in, but that she seemed as confused by as she was by those of us who tried to visit her there. For her, even changing clothes had become an insurmountable obstacle—a challenge that rivaled childbirth, an unfaithful husband, an addicted son, an autistic grandson. It rivaled the war she’d staged against her much-younger sister—the power she held over that sister by her rejection of her. It rivaled her efforts to enter the world again as a single woman and to try to win the world over to the fact that it was all his fault. It rivaled her insistence that it was the world that was confused in refusing to go along with all her beliefs and justifications.

She had barely if ever left a word unspoken when it came to an argument. It was so simple, really. She was always right. That everyone in the world, and more particularly her younger sister, refused to believe this was a thorn in her side. The skin on her cheek itched with the irritation over the unfairness of the world. She had worn a path in it, carving out a small trench so that the skin even now was scaly with that road traversed over and over again by one chewed-off fingernail. “Are you she?” She asked me, and when I admitted I was, she added, “Oh, you were always so irritating. Even as a little girl. Why could you never be what anyone else wanted you to be? You were always so, so—yourself!”

It was my chance, finally, for an honest conversation with this sister 11 years older—more a crabby mother always, than a sister. A chance if she could keep on track long enough to remember both who I am and who we both once were.

“So what was wrong with how I was, Betty? With how I am?”

“Oh, you were always so . . . . “ She stopped here, as though struggling for a word or for a memory. I saw her eyes stray to the floor between the door and the dresser. “There’s that little fuzzy thing there,” she said. I could see her eyes chart the progress of this creature invisible to me across the room.

I hung on to the thought she had so recently abandoned. “But me, Betty. What do you find wrong with me?”

Her eyes came back to me and connected, suddenly, with a sort of snap that made me think we were back in the same world again as she contemplated by last question. I tried to keep judgment out of my own gaze—to keep her here with me for long enough to connect on at least this one question.

“You were,” she said, and it was with that dismissive disgusted tone she had so often used with me since I was a very small child. “You were just so mystical!”

I was confused, not sure that the word she had used was the one she meant to use.

“What do you mean by mystical, Betty?” I sat on the bed beside her and reached out for the static wisps of hair that formed a cowlick at the back of her head—evidence of the long naps which had once again taken over her life, after a long interim period of raising kids, running charities and church prayer circles, and patrolling second-hand-stores, traveling to PEO conventions and staying on the good side of a number of eccentric grandchildren.

“Oh, you know. All those mystical experiences! The E.S.P. and all those other stories you told my kids. And Mother. Even Mother believed you.”

Then a haze like a layer of smoke once more seemed to pass over her eyes, dulling her connection to this time and reality and to me.

Her chin trembled and a tear ran down her cheek. She ran one fingernail-chewed index finger over and over the dome of her thumb and her face broke into the crumpled ruin of a child’s face who has just had its heart broken, the entire world of sadness expressed in this one face. I put my arms around her, and for the first time in our lives, she did not pull away. We rocked in comfort to each other, both of us mourning something different, I think. Me mourning a sister who now would never be mine in the way that sisters are meant to be. Her mourning a self that she had not been able to find for a very long time.

“Oh, the names I have been called in my life,” I was thinking.

“Oh, the moon shadows on the table in the corner. What do they mean?” She was thinking.

The last time I gave my sister a fortune cookie, she went to the bathroom and washed it off under the faucet, chuckling as though it was the most clever thing in the world to do. She then hung it on a spare nail on the wall.

When I asked her if she needed to go to the bathroom, she nodded yes, and moved in the direction of the kitchen. Then she looked at the news scroll on the television and asked if those were directions for her. If there was something she was supposed to be doing. And that picture on the wall. What was it telling her she was supposed to do?

In the end, I rubbed her head until she fell asleep, covered her and stole away. I’d fly away the next morning, leaving her to her new world as she had left me to mine from the very beginning.

Prompt words today are hang on, contemplate, daydream, bearing and surround.

Happy Birthday, Patti

It’s my big sister’s birthday today. We won’t mention ages, but suffice it to say that she was always four years ahead of me in everything except birthdays, because mine has been happening six days before hers ever since I was born.  Happy birthday to my dear sister who always has my back. 

Click on photos to enlarge.

Explorers

Click to enlarge photos.

Explorers

Sitting up past midnight, we search our mind for facts,
parting long grasses of the past for long-forgotten pacts
of secrets kept from parents and long-forgotten games:
“New Orleans” and “Send ‘Em” *. We comb our minds for names.

Of talents left to childhood, like flips off monkey bars.
Adventures dreamed on rooftops and the back seats of cars.
Favorite childhood dresses and jokes pulled on our folks.
Afternoons in Mack’s Cafe, sipping on our Cokes.

Hot beef sandwiches at Fern’s and running up the stairs
to avoid Mom’s fly swatter aimed at our derrieres.
Childhood dramas staged in trees or in our backyard lawn.

Teenage slumber parties that stretched out into dawn.

We journey through old albums, searching photos for
any tiny detail that will open up a door.
Each time I come to visit, we remember a bit more
on these safaris of the mind that we both adore.

*These are the names of childhood games. Did anyone else play them?

For the Word of the Day challenge: Exploring

Dental Retaliation

 

daily life  color108 (1)

Dental Retaliation

Do you remember toothbrushes lined up on a rack
in the medicine cabinet, at the mirror’s back?
Your father’s brush was ocean blue, your mother’s brush was green,
your sister’s brush the reddest red that you had ever seen,
whereas your brush’s handle had no color at all—
as though it was the ugliest sister at the ball.

How you yearned for color, reaching for your brush
as the first summer’s meadowlark called to break the hush
of the early morning while you were sneaking out
to be the first one out-of-doors to see what was about.
Making that fast decision, your hand fell on the red,
thinking your sister wouldn’t know, for she was still abed.

You put toothpaste upon it, wet it at the tap
and ran the brush over each tooth as well as every gap.
Each toothbrush flavor was different, your older sis had said,
so you thought it would be different brushing your teeth with red.

Your father’s brush was blueberry, your mother’s brush was mint.
Your sister’s luscious cherry—its flavor heaven-sent.

“But because you are adopted,” your sister had the gall
to tell you, “they gave you the brush with no flavor at all.”
You waited to taste cherries, but that taste never came.
That red brush tasted like toothpaste. It tasted just the same
as every other morning when you brushed with yours.
You heard your sister stir upstairs, the squeaking of the floors.

You toweled off her toothbrush and hung it in the rack
and started to run out the door. Then something brought you back.
You opened up the mirror and grabbed her brush again.
A big smile spread across your face—a retaliatory grin.
The dread cod liver oil stood on the tallest shelf.
You were barely big enough to reach it for yourself.

You dipped her toothbrush in it, then quickly blew it dry.
Replaced it, shut the cabinet, and when you chanced to spy
your own reflection in the glass, each of you winked an eye.
Then you ran out to cherry trees to catch the first sunbeam
and brush your teeth with cherries while you listened for her scream.

Yes, we really did have a cherry orchard behind our house. You can see the trees peeking up behind the wild rose bushes directly behind the trellis in the picture above. This is my older sister Patti and I.  Yes, she really did tell me I was adopted. (I wasn’t.) No, I never did smear her toothbrush with cod liver oil. The retaliation part is just a mental one, sixty-some years too late, I’m afraid. She has since redeemed herself.

The prompt today is toothbrush.

Following: NaPoWriMo 2017, Day 13

The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to write a ghazal. A ghazal is formed of couplets, each of which is its own complete statement. Both lines of the first couplet end with the same end-word, and that end-word is also repeated at the end of each couplet.

daily life color242My sisters and I. Strangely enough, there is not one photo of my mother and father and the three of us girls together. The only family photo ever taken was before I was born.


Following

 The youngest of three, every day down unpaved roads, I tracked my sisters’ footprints.
Nancy Drew wannabe, who needed  fingerprints when I could read their footprints?

My mother’s closet a treasure trove, hidden wonders lay obscured on the tallest shelves.
I fanned her dresses with my fingers, slipped into red high-heels that bore her footprints.

Careful where you walk, my father warned, parting tall grass near the homestead ruins.
Fearful of snakes, I fit my own feet to matted grass that marked my father’s footprints.

That frightening choice of colleges facing me, I knew no other way to decide
than to go where she’d gone, and follow in my sister’s footprints.

The obligation of college over with no more paths worn by other feet to follow,
I chose  Australia, Indonesia and then Africa––following imagination’s footprints.

My niece’s teeth clamped to the old saxophone as its mouthpiece snapped in two,
worn by each of the girls in our family and then by her, as she followed in our footprints.

Wish List of a Youngest Daughter


Wish List of a Youngest Daughter

Off and on, I’ve been wishing
my dad and I could go fishing.
I guess my sister could go along
so long as she does nothing wrong
like catch a fish bigger than mine
or tease or hum or brag or whine.

Perhaps she’ll sit back in the bed
and not up in the cab instead,
so Dad and I can be alone—
the truck a sort of “private zone.”
He’ll hit the bumps real hard so she
will wish she was in front with me.

Just like I always pray and pray
her friends and she will let me stay
with them, when they come for the night
and play without me, door shut tight.
Marvelous fun had down the hall,
but not with me.  I am too small.

That’s why, when Dad tells me a joke,
I’ll laugh real loud until I choke;
and my sister, sitting there behind
might feel left out, but I don’t mind.
And when we get to where we’re going,
to the stock dam, cattle lowing,

Dad will bait my hook for me
and sister, too, and then we’ll see
who will catch the biggest fish.
I guess it’s obvious that my wish
is that I’ll catch the biggest one,
and sister will go home with none!

The prompt today is “Fishing.”

Hail (Re)Tale

Hail (Re)Tale

I told my hail story so long ago that I had few followers and even I had forgotten about it, so perhaps you have, too. Or, if you are a relatively new reader, you probably haven’t seen it before. As a matter of fact, the only people currently following my blog who read it were Angloswiss, Ann, Allenda and my sister. (Hi, ladies)– so  here it is again.  Please go HERE to read it.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sudden-shifts/

Good Times Just Don’t Pass Away

daily life color062 (2)My sister Patti and I doing our “sister act.”  Now we call ahead to make sure we aren’t wearing the same outfit! Half of my childhood was spent in this yard and in almost every picture, I have something in my hands from nature, examining it…as in this picture, I just noticed.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Nothin’ But A Good Time.” Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

Since I wrote to this prompt over a year ago, I’m just going to give a link to that prompt: https://judydykstrabrown.com/2014/11/20/4406/

NaPoWriMo, Day 3: In the Market

I had a reading to go to this morning, where I read both “At 67” and “Once Upon a Lime in Mexico,” but you heard them both here first!  “At 67” will also be published in Ojo del Lago, Mexico’s largest English Language newspaper/magazine, which is both in print and online.  Before I left at 9:30 for the reading, I got part of today’s blog post finished and I completed it in the Walmart parking lot, where I’d gone to do a bit of shopping.  Dreading the stop-and-go Semana Santa traffic, I decided to finish it so it would be ready for posting when I got home,  which it is and I am!!!  So, here goes.

I’ve been trying to combine the NaPoWriMo and the WordPress prompts each day. The NaPoWriMo prompt today was to write a “fourteener” poem where each line consists of seven iambic feet (i.e., an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, times seven.) This form is also called a ballad.

No topic was given, so I took a WordPress Prompt and went to a friend’s book and turned to page 11 and took the 11th word, which was “Should,”  and started a poem entitled “She Should.”  I later changed the title and the first line, so the words that started the poem no longer are part of it. The purpose of a prompt is to start, not serve as an end-all. So, here is my ballad.  Please let me know what you think.

In the Market

Her mother tells her not to talk to strangers in the streets–
to count on all her kin to provide everyone she meets.
But this man has such lovely eyes, so what could be the harm?
And she’s not often left to stray this far from father’s farm.
When he walks by, she gives a smile and looks him in the eye.
He looks away, but his shy smile still gives away the guy.
She drops her basket, but he still continues on his way.
It’s only then that she decides that this one must be gay.

The store where she is going is not so very far,
and yet she takes the longest way that leads there from her car.
Although it should be blocks away, instead it is two miles.
She only has this route and back to practice all her wiles.
Whenever gentlemen of note meet her questing glance,
Her winsome smile becomes a grin, her walk becomes a prance.
Some of the men seem to be shocked. The others move away.
She’s sure it is just married men she meets this market day.

But finally, one man in plaid does not avoid her glance.
She smiles at him invitingly, afraid she’ll lose her chance.
She sees him turn as she walks by and follow in her wake.
It seems she’s finally hooked one. It was a piece of cake.
When she arrives and goes into the store, he follows her.
It’s just so he can meet her, of this she’s fairly sure.
Aisle after aisle she meets his gaze by boldly looking up
while he pretends he’s looking for food on which to sup.

Pork and beans he passes up, chili and green beans.
He adjusts his shoulders and hitches up his jeans.
She knows that he’s not used to this. He’s not so debonair.
He will not meet her flirty glance or even her bold stare;
and yet she sees him peeking when it seems that she’s not looking.
It’s clear enough to her that something’s definitely cooking.
She’s been around the livestock so she knows the signs and causes,
yet a bull just gets right to it and a rooster never pauses.

The action quickens in the aisle where the bread shelves start.
She finally takes the upper hand and swerves into his cart.
The metal baskets scrape and crash and make an awful din.
She does not mind that people gawk. She finally has an in!
He blushes when she talks to him, and she is sure he nearly
takes her hand and flirts as he says, “Pardon,” very clearly.
He turns and walks her down the aisle. It is a date, almost.
Side by side they stroll until parted by a post

that splits the aisle in two and makes them part, then join again.
Though she is small and portly, and he is tall and thin,
they make a handsome couple. She can see their wedding stills.
She will pick the gown and flowers. He will pay the bills.
When they approach the registers, he tells her to go first.
They chat as the checker works. It almost seems rehearsed.

He asks about her family and certainly seems rapt.
The lives of mother, father, brother, sister clearly mapped.
Details others might find boring are engagingly related
and all the while his pupils stay entirely dilated.
He puts his thumb right through a peach, then grabs up a red apple,
and tells her that he’s noticed her in front of him in chapel,
sitting by her sister and wearing a blue hat.
Her sister’s hat was yellow.  He is sure of that.

When she asks him home to supper, he says, “Yes,” in nothing flat.
He talks to all her relatives and even holds the cat.
When her annoying sister talks and talks and talks,
he responds politely–he never even balks.
He finally admits that he’s engineered their meeting,
but still the news of it does not set her heart to beating.
Now it is family legend, the story of this mister,
with an unexpected ending. He was there to meet her sister!

 https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/three-letter-words/

The Sticky Fingers of Things

The Sticky Fingers of Things

Over the past year, I have started to feel so encumbered by things that I feel like they are choking me.  Even my art-filled and carefully arranged house, which I love, has started to make me feel like I’m trapped in one of my own collages.

I once wrote that I like to do assemblage because it is an arrangement that is glued down so other people can’t rearrange it, but recently I’ve begun to feel like one of those objects.  I just can’t get myself unpinned from my present life.  It is not that there is anything terribly wrong about it.  Just that I no longer have a feeling of freedom..

Recently, I was asked what I would save if my house were on fire and I could only save five things.  My answer would be an album of childhood pictures, an album of pictures from Africa and Australia, my computer and two backup drives.  Then I’d put them in storage, buy a new computer and go on another trip around the world with no planned itinerary and no planned start or stop dates.

Why can’t I do this on my own?  Who knows why we let ourselves be controlled by things? Maybe it is because we know we can’t take them with us and so we strive to get as much pleasure out of them as possible while we can.  Perhaps it is because we fear that without things, we ourselves are nothing.  Perhaps it is because we cannot see that the beauty is within ourselves.  Perhaps it is because we fear that others give us value simply because of the things around us.

I once heard my eleven-year-older sister tell someone that she liked to visit her younger sisters because they both had such interesting lives and friends.  I felt so sad that she hadn’t said that she loved to visit me because I, myself, was interesting and loved.  I think this has influenced my feeling for her ever since.

My sister is now in the stages of dementia where pretty much everything has been taken from her.  She no longer knows what most common objects are for, but my niece recently told me that she had been given a life-sized baby doll that she holds and rocks and talks to and that the other day she called it Judy. I guess she waited too long to express any feelings of love she might have felt for me. Now, she is seemingly expressing that love toward an object when all these years she could have been expressing it to the person who could have returned it.  Is this what I’m doing by refusing to surrender the objects that fill my life?  Maybe it is time to find out.

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The Prompt:  What five objects would you \save from your burning house?