So I get an email from my middle sister, Maggie. You may recall my sharing with you that at our last sister reunion, my middle sister would not change her birth order. She insisted on staying the middle sister. Whereas Joycie had no problem becoming the oldest, and I of course chose to be the youngest. So far, it has worked out quite well for me.
Receiving emails from Mag is not unusual, in and of itself. Emails and telephone visits are my sisters’ ways of ensuring we are in touch — one of our ways of preserving the precious bond with which we’ve been blessed and which we lovingly nurture, a bond that could not be diminished by the challenge geographical distance offers.
Did I mention that Joycie, after 30-plus years on the West Coast, has finally decided the threat of her beloved California sliding into the ocean, or the threat of mudslides, forest fires and earthquakes, was becoming too much. Yes, I am thrilled to report that my Joycie is moving back to the East Coast: Manhattan, here I come.
All three of us are now in the same time zone. Amazing.
We have begun planning this year’s sister reunion. June in New York. Perhaps the theater. Perhaps long walks breathing in the smells, checking out the sights and listening to the distinct sounds of our teen years. Every neighborhood with its defining name and personality. Chelsea, SoHo, the Village, Tribeca, the East Village, China Town, the West Side, the East Side, to name just a few. Perhaps we’ll indulge ourselves in a drive to the Bronx and the neighborhood of our childhood.
“How old could I have been before I realized that the water marks that streaked down my dirty lower arms was not a cool thing?”
This question is the first sentence of the email I received from my middle sister. The next sentence read: “Or, for that matter … How old were we before we could select a shirt from Cordays for Dad’s bday?”
These may seem like easy questions, but consider for a moment the implications. Think of all the “how old do we have to be/how old were we” questions this could raise.
How old were we when we started the tradition of buying Mother’s Day cards for Daddy to give to Mommy? How old were we when we realized the squiggles on paper were letters of an alphabet that make up the structure of a words that could open the world to us? How old were we when we stopped saying “fruck” and began using the word as it was intended — “truck”?
How old would we have been when we first realized boys express themselves differently from girls, and the punch you received on your arm was a punch of endearment? Let us girls not forget the age we were when we finally understood what our moms meant when they kept insisting we cross our legs when wearing a skirt? When makeup was to enhance our beauty, not hide it behind enough makeup to make a clown cringe?
When did we finally acknowledge that not remembering our birthday parties in no way indicated that our families did not care enough to make them for us?
I remember one of my most beloved birthday gifts.
My mom had a friend named Lilly From Paris. Yes, that was her name. We also had Lilly Jerry, Lilly Zelman and Lilly the Roiteh (redhead).
When Lilly From Paris returned to the Bronx after her trip to Paris, she brought me the most beautiful two-story dollhouse you can imagine. Included in this gift to beat all gifts were the doll people and their furniture (after all, you can’t live in a home devoid of personality). I painted rugs on the floor of the bedrooms and the living room. I sewed curtains for the kitchen window and drapes for the other windows.
I am wondering, as I tell you about my gift, if this was the beginning of my love affair with home décor and sewing. Did my dollhouse inform my decision to live in a house when I grew up, as opposed to an apartment?
Back to the question of age, or is it a question of maturity? How old do we have to be before we are ready to divulge our true age?
How old indeed!