This year is a banner year of big birthdays. My younger sister turns forty, my older sister turns sixty, and my husband turns fifty. My bank book turns to dust. We are a party family, so there are many parties planned. One takes place in Copenhagen, Denmark, where my husband Kenneth was born. His parents are having a huge party for his birthday and their 50th wedding anniversary. Also, here in California, my two sisters and I and the rest of the fam will be partying in various ways for the next two months in celebration of all this time passing. Time. It is the great adventure.
Yes, I have a forty-year-old sister and a sixty-year-old sister. And I'm in the middle, age twenty-nine, the last time I checked. Oh, hell, the math doesn't work, does it? Well, anyway, I remember when my mother told my father she was pregnant. Dinner time: My sister, Cheryl, and I sat across from each other at the kitchen table. My parents sat across from each other, drinking their martinis. My mother was forty-one, and my father was forty-five. The year was 1967 when women did not go around having babies at such an advanced age. Especially one's mother. Cheryl was nineteen, and I was fifteen. We were twirling spaghetti onto our forks when my mother said,
"Bob, the frog died."
My father stared at my mother like he didn't recognize her.
My mother was pregnant. Good God. My parents had sex. And recently. That's the only thing I could think about although sex was just something I'd read about. However, I had an active imagination and could visualize. Aghast, I put my fork down. I couldn't eat.
An evening seven months later: My father is on a business trip. Cheryl and I are watching TV when my mother walks into the family room, carrying a small suitcase, and says: "My water broke."
Cheryl had been in too many fender benders, causing near-fatal accidents in parking lots, so my mother asked me to drive her to the hospital. I can still see the three of us crammed into the front seat of my mother's Dodge 880. It had a long red leather seat. My mother sat in the middle, her big belly pressed against the dashboard. I drove us to John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek. I remember the song, Cherish Is the Word, was playing on the radio.
Cheryl and I drank many bottles of Dr. Pepper and scattered many sunflower seed shells across the waiting room floor. Then Kerry was finally born, feet first. Ow! When I held her in my arms, I fell so far in love I could never fall out. She was the most beautiful baby on earth.
My social life for the rest of my high school years consisted of baby-sitting. But that was okay. I loved my sister like the sun, moon, and stars. By the time I was seventeen, I knew all about what it was like to take care of a baby. I had zero romantic notions about it. I knew the secrets and what it took. To this day, part of my heart still thinks of my sister as my baby, and now she's forty years old! My baby, my sister, my friend. Cherish is the word.
Time! My husband Kenneth was thirty-three when I first met him. And now he's going to be fifty. Ah, I remember when I saw him for the first time: his hair bleached blond from the sun, falling across his forehead like beach grass. He wore a white t-shirt and faded jeans, black boots. I see him walking toward me, his face lit up like he'd won something.
Time! My sister Cheryl was four when I was born. My first memory of her: In our shared bedroom, we hold hands, swinging them, across the space between our twin beds.
Another memory: We draw pictures on each other's backs when we are supposed to be sleeping. Then we guess what the other has drawn. We rarely fight. I am in love with her, from the start.
The poet Kenneth Rexroth said, "Love is an art of time." I agree, but I loved my sisters and husband from Day One. Over the years, it has gotten deeper, maybe. It always felt fathomless.
Causes Susan Browne Supports
Run Together, A Race to Raise Money for Leukemia and Lymphoma Society