Sisters — we are generous. We place our arms around the shoulders of each other. At every opportunity, we nuzzle down into each other’s neck and pull our scents into our respective hearts. We’re meant to be wild with our emotions and soft with our judgments. We were designed to be necklaces about one another.
Each New Year we vow to better practice the art of being human.
Two days later, we usually mess up.
Why? I don’t know. I don’t have the authority to mention why we might be so odd to one another. But I do know about this — I know only about myself. I know only about my own mess-ups and my own oopsies. My whoops that made others shake their heads and wonder about me.
My lovely older sister — the one who still thinks I was adopted, or at the very least, the progeny of 0ur mother’s possible indiscretion with an unrelated uncle — says I don’t fit the family mold. I’m not the physical blueprint, she points out. She says I’m bold, while she is soft-natured; she says that her eyes are dark and mine are not and that fact alone makes us different. I’m fair skinned, rather than olive like our parents … and her. I’m blue eyed. Blond. She’s dark, like a black-eyed pea. She remembers I was the one who always flew into Uncle Randolph’s arms — his light-skinned arms — rather than to sit begrudgingly on our father’s lap, his arms, covered with swirling dark hair, curled around my small, light frame. Of course, Uncle Randolph was a Congregationalist preacher, so a liaison with our mother would have been an unlikely occurrence.
At our age now, I suppose, it doesn’t matter. In fact, what if our mother did have that liaison. What if she did? Maybe she needed it, deserved it. She certainly would have been discreet for it. Oh, did I mention that my father was a doofus who had megalopolis issues? It was common in those days. Uncle Randolph was the gentle dude who engaged me with fart jokes and jesusy passages, while the father I knew was a nutcake with a permanent scowl and a desperate need to prove himself.
Is it really possible Uncle Randolph could have been my dad?
Then there was the sudden death of our mother. Sudden! A quick cremation. Uncle Randolph looking so terribly haunted during the funeral.
These are the things that make good fiction — a young unfulfilled woman, a fruitcake husband with a bad attitude … and a willing preacher/ Lothario who ended up marrying the older sister just so he could stay nearby, within hand-holding range. Then, of course, the surprising , hasty death of the beautiful young wife, a no-residue cremation of that young wife who told everyone she was terrified — TERRIFIED — by fire, her stunned children, bereaving and questioning for years.
If there’s not a mystery story that doesn’t arrive from this scenario, then Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are nothing more than older siblings to Sponge Bob Square Pants.
Nevertheless, my sister and I still enthrall each other with made-up mysteries like this. We’ve done it since we were kids. And we hang on to each other in that generous way that means we’re sisters, regardless of our really interesting, made-up, can’t-prove-a-thing, mysterious, now-and-then, who’s-father-is-yours, sideways glances that have always kept us invigorated and laughing and laughing in spite of our family Sherlock Holmes mystery-ness.
But that’s the story we made up to amuse each other, under our blankets with flashlights held under our chins. Our father really wasn’t a butcher knife wielding maniac, but our story needed a ready villain and — other than Uncle Randolph — Daddy was the only tall man we knew. It was true that I was an unlikely blond, blue-eyed child in a family of people with dark hair, swarthy skin and eyes the color of olive pits. It was true that it was only my mother’s profile that showed up on my face as I got older.
It is also true that my sister and I have vivid imaginations, fostered by growing up with books in our laps and parents who encouraged us to read and read and read.
Maybe one day I’ll write down our make-believe story. I’ll credit my sister for its inception and I’ll take a bow for letting the story become wicked and wild and altogether mysterious. Then I’ll thank my mother and father for the good sense to allow their children to sit under their blankets at night and tell spooky stories until we laughed ourselves to sleep.
Have I mentioned I like mysteries?