© Another Day in the Country
I can look across the street and see my sister’s home from my front porch. I sit on my porch in the morning, during nice weather, eat my breakfast, and drink a cup of hot. It doesn’t matter what kind of hot liquid: It can be coffee, tea, or just water, for that matter. Hot is the optimum flavor.
It’s Erich’s old house that she lives in. Of course, he’d never recognize it, if he were taken on a tour. What once was a rather glum, but tidy, bachelor’s quarters is now a warm and inviting little palace. Jess and I inherited some gene from our grandmother Schubert and we can make almost anything — two old sticks, a discarded piece of furniture, battered walls, look warm and lovely.
There aren’t many folk who are blessed to be living so close to a sister — especially one they get along with and get to see every day.
When I bought our first tumbledown house in Ramona 25 years ago, at least, she was right in the mix, cheering me on. When the dream was hatched that someday we would come back to Ramona and stay for a whole year, she was right there saying, “Yes, we’ll do it.” When the year 2000 came rolling around with all of its new-millinium significance, she said, “Let’s do it now.” And I didn’t argue. We came.
As I drink my coffee, swinging gently on the porch swing, laptop in my lap — because I’m talking to you — I watch her back door to see if she is up. There are signs. The cats are gathering on her back step for treatskies. The door — which is always dark behind the screen — is darker when it’s open because I can no longer see the wreath hanging on it and she usually opens her back door to let in light. And then I often see her coming out the back door talking to the cats, she’s telling them how beautiful and much loved they are and the pitch and rhythm of her voice carries across the street. Sometimes I hear her singing, sometimes talking on the phone — sitting on the step, connecting to a far away friend.
This morning she is out watering her flowerbeds. She comes around the corner stretching her arms over her head — first one then the other. At first, I think she is waving and I stop typing and wave back; but she doesn’t see me. Then, I realize that she is stretching out the stiffness in her arms — especially the left one that’s been giving her trouble as we lifted and carried, heaved and moved the contents of a house elsewhere.
Almost, I was an only child. My parents loved me but they weren’t really quite sure what to do with children. They, after all, were on a mission, called by their spiritual beliefs to warn and ultimately save the world. Children just came along for the ride — in their case it was Child, singular, that sat on the front row of church, helped take up the offering, and passed out song books. When I was 12, my sister was born.
What does an evangelist and his songstress wife do with a teenager and a new baby? It worked out well because the teenager took care of the baby and thus got out of lots of meetings and religious services that way. It was a win-win!
And so, I had a little sister who loved weddings and played that scenario over endlessly wearing my crenoline skirts and a tea towel over her head, with various neighborhood kids filling in the parts. One time when I broke up with the guy I should never have married, she looked into my furious, tearful face and said, “If you don’t want him, can I have him?” She liked his gentle ways and thought him tall and dashing as a 6-year-old.
When I finally married, my little sister was deemed too old to be a flower girl so she was assigned to be a candle lighter — she was 8, going on 9, and flower girls in the 50s were supposed to be little cherubs. She was disappointed, but took to her task with enthusiasm — as she does with tasks to this very day.
When I got home this summer, after spending two months in California, my sister proudly pointed out my garden.
“See, no weeds,” she said, “so don’t you ever tell anyone again that I don’t do weeds.”
The garden was weed-free and mulched to perfection.
It’s another day in the country and I have been so blessed in my life to have a sister — even though I thought at the time that I’d have to wait for a long time before she grew up and was old enough to also be a friend. It wasn’t so long. Time flies.