Recently, it was National Sister Week, and naturally that got me thinking about Tessa and Claudine, my novel about two sisters. Tessa, the youngest sister, tells the story. I grew up with one sibling, an older sister so I guess you can figure out where some of my material for my novel comes from.
My sister, Charlotte, was 15 months older. Of course, in her eyes she was MUCH older. When were were little our mother dressed us alike, much to my dismay. I often had to wear hand me downs from my sister. When I grew out of my dress or pants outfit, I then had to wear Charlotte’s clothes, perhaps in a different color. Bummer.
My sister reigned as the roller skating queen in the neighborhood. She taught all of the neighborhood kids how to skate. I was her most difficult student. Her lessons took place on the Jefferson Street hill on the corner, a half block away from our house. I could skate down the hill — the problem was I had trouble stopping at the bottom. I had scabs on both knees all summer the year I was in training. Each evening I got iodine painted on my knees after my bath.
That reminds me of another sister issue. We’d get called inside at night to take a bath. The deal was if you went in first, when Nana, our great-grandmother who lived with us, hollered for us from the front porch — you got the clean bath water. If you were last to come in, you got to skate with the neighborhood kids longer, but you got the dirty bath water. Charlotte usually said, “You go first.” Most of the time, I did just to keep her from throwing a fit. The truth is, I rather liked the clean bath water.
It’s fun to think back to those years. Over the years, I had a lot of fun with my sister. We shared many good times, had many great conversations, played cards until all hours, agreed, disagreed, laughed and cried together. We married and lived far apart, but we stayed in close touch with phone conversations and visits. Our children got to know one another. Life moved on. We mourned the loss of our mother together. And then one day I got a phone call from my niece — my sister was gone, too. A car accident. The news knocked the wind out of me. I wondered what would I do without Charlotte in my life?
I stumbled around in a daze for a while, then realized that I had to keep my chin up, move on with my life, and carry along my special memories. I can still picture my sister’s fun, smiling face, and hear her laughter. She was one unique gal.
So, here’s to you, Charlotte. Keep an eye out. I’ll see you someday when I cross over the bridge. And if you are giving lessons of any kind, you know, like maybe how to flutter wings, or how to skate on clouds, whatever. I’m getting in your line. Sign me up — go ahead, pre-register me.