My sisters came to my city for a visit last weekend. Well, two of them came. The other one lives here. I have three sisters. Patrice, Celia and Jessie. They are all different, all unique, and I swear to god I must have been adopted because I do not fit in this family at all. But, they love me anyway and I love them. I don't think we look anything alike, but people are constantly telling us that we not only look alike, but talk alike, move alike and have the exact same expressions.
Jessie's husband, Dwayne, says that we all have the same get the fuck out of my way look when we are angry. "It's all in the chin," he says. "You all have those pointy witch chins anyway and when you get mad, the chin gets all jutty and quivery."
Patrice has almost black hair. Celia is a natural blond. None of us can figure this out as NO ONE in our family is blond, our Da had black hair and our Mother, red. But, Liv has blond hair too and her father is an American Indian. My hair used to be this mousy brown color; now it is mostly gray. Jessie has brown hair too, but it has these gorgeous natural red highlights in it that look like she pays hundreds of dollars at the salon every month. She doesn't.
Patrice and Celia have our Mother's dark blue eyes, Jessie, our Da's Paul Newman light blue. Me? Mine are this odd hazel, green, blue color and they change with my mood. If I am happy, they are more blue, if I am sick, they go all greenish and if I am sad, they turn into this muddy hazel color. Bing says it is the vampire in me.
Let me introduce you to my sisters:
Patrice is the oldest. She is in her late 50's, and is the shortest in a family of shorties. She is about 4'9. Her hair is long and thick, almost blue black and gorgeously thick. She looks about twenty years younger than she is. She is small wristed and dainty ankled like the rest of us, but she has cuuuurrrvvvees and really big boobs (or loodies, as we call them, for some odd reason.)She's all Annette Funicello. She is retired now, but managed a doctor's office for years and after she retired, her boss offered her huge bucks to come back. She didn't. She and her husband, Tom, are very wealthy and she spends her time now puttering in her garden, re-decorating her house, and being a staunch Republican.
Celia, is in her mid 50's and looks like a fragile Dusty Springfield. She is about 4'10 and teeny tiny. She probably weighs about 80 pounds soaking wet yet she walks for miles every day, worried that if she doesn't, she will suddenly turn into Mrs. Santa Claus. She has been a SAHM all of her life and now she is a SAHG (stay at home grandma..she babysits her grandkids.)Her husband is one of the kindest men I have ever met, Dan. They live in the small town in Iowa where we grew up and she scrapbooks. Celia is the sensitive one in our family. She is shy.
Jessie is in her early 40's. The accident. We tease her about this all of the time. I was nearly 10 when she was born. She is the most like our Mother, fiery and opinionated, stubborn and smart as hell. She was also spoiled rotten growing up, so she tends to be very self involved. She's a teacher and a pillar of the Catholic Church. She actually teaches religion (and math) in the high school in the small town that Celia lives in and she teaches several night classes in religion as well. She is a walking Catholic expert. She is so convinced that I am going to shoot straight to hell that she has begged me to let her make sure that I get extreme unction on my death bed in the hopes that somehow God will have mercy on my soul. She is a neat five feet even and married to Dwayne, a good ole boy and very laid back in the way that small town men often are.
When we all get together, it can be both very fun and entertaining and sort of bizarre. Patrice tries, in her motherly fashion to keep Jessie and I from arguing about religion or politics. We are on opposite ends. Debate with Jessie is interesting to me, though, because she actually knows her stuff. She knows the bible and how the Catholic church stands on every single thing in the world. If you want to know how the church feels about chewing gum, she not only knows, but can probably quote from the article. Our arguments are spirited and just short of menacing at times. One or both of us usually steps back and finally we agree to disagree. But we both know that we are right and that other sister is wrong.
Celia is by far the quietest of us all and the most peace loving. She will never utter a word to hurt anyone if she can help it. Patrice is the eldest, and therefore, our mother figure, she is by far the bossiest and tends to plan all activities when we are together. This time she planned a dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant since we are all pasta pigs and then a trip to the playhouse to see a show that she knew would please Jessie because it is religious and me because it has some great quirky moments. Celia is so easy to please that we never worry about her.
Celia and Jessie stayed at Patrice's house for the visit. I do have a spare bedroom, but Patrice has two and her house is far more splendid than mine and the rooms have their own bathrooms and showers, so she wins hand down in the hotel category. Plus, at my house, we have all sorts of green things that bug my sisters from intense recycling to a showerhead that emits just enough water for a person to get clean and not one drop more. MUCH more fun to stay at Patrice's....
When they came by to pick me up for dinner, we all laughed. Because we had all somehow managed to dress in black. This happens so often that we just shake our heads. And true, to form, the following day when we all met for breakfast, we were all wearing pink.
At dinner, Celia and I ordered the angel pasta and meatballs while Patrice and Jessie went for the lasagna. The wine flowed. Much bread was dipped into olive oil and garlic. We all talked, sweetly at first like good sisters in Little Women and then we became bolder. Jessie chided me for not making her daughter go to mass when she stayed at my house last month. I told her that as far as I was concerned, she was 18 and that was that. I didn't stop her, did I?
"Well," Jessie said, swiping her bread through the oil and taking a generous bite, "It was also lifeline Sunday and she missed that too."
Apparently, this is a day where good Catholics gather in little right to life groups and stand in a long line to show their support for the movement.
I chuckled. Told her that it was probably best that I hadn't even known that was in town or I might have locked her child in my basement to prevent her attending....
Patrice, sensing a sister brawl brewing, changed the subject. Did we know about Cousin Diana? That new haircut wasn't working....
I cleared my throat, told them that I wanted to share something. The sisters braced themselves. This could be anything from sharing that my daughter had decided to take fencing lessons (she has, but I didn't tell them about that) to me getting some sort of racy tatt or piercing. (I do have a tattoo but it was done when I was in my drunken twenties and I would give anything to get rid of it and I have let most of my piercings close up.) But, if Patrice is the bossy one, Celia is the quiet, sensitive one and Jessie is the religious one....I am considered to be the bold one. The one most likely to do something like decide to vacation at a nudist colony (with my saggy loodies? NEVER) or ask them if they want to share a bowl with me. They had trepidations.
I told them that Bing and I had recently bought a half hour phone call from a psychic. It's true. Bing was the one who set up, to my great surprise. She is sooo not inclined to do things like that. But, her Aunt recently died and her grief has been great and now she was having really odd dreams and so she decided to do this after researching this in true Bing fashion to find the psychic with the best record.
I won't even say how much it cost because it was way too much. And while I thought it was interesting and possibly true, I am not wholly convinced. What the hell is it with psychics that when a family member who has crossed decides to "come through" in these sessions, that they can NEVER figure out what their name is? This one said that someone was coming through, a father figure for me and that his name started with a J or a G. I said that yes, this was my father. And later, she said that a female entity was coming through and carrying a flower. Well, the first part of my Mother's name is a flower but why the hell couldn't she simply TELL me her name? Why is it that she could tell me that my Mother was warning me that I needed to get a flu shot since my health was so bad, but she couldn't say her name? I came away from the meeting feeling a little convinced (one piece of information that the psychic gave was a date that was dead on accurate) and a little skeptical (when my Mother "came through" she didn't seem to think it was important that she had disinherited me from her will because I was bi-sexual; it was never even vaguely touched upon.) And poor Bing. Her Aunt never did come through, although a grandmother whom she had never met did and a long dead cousin whom she barely knew did as well.
So, I had mixed feelings about it all and relayed that to my sisters. Patrice and Celia shared my skepticism but admitted that some things seemed eerily accurate. Jessie, however, flat out told me that this sort of shit (she said "stuff") was not only bogus but that it was the work of Beelzebub, plain and simple. She got a little smarty pants about it all, in my opinion so I did what I do best. I began mocking her in my Church Lady voice. ("OH, I don't know...do you think that possibly it could have been....let's see.....SATAN???!!")
As we went on to another subject, Patrice accidentally knocked over a salt shaker and I righted it and then threw a pinch of salt over my shoulder to keep the bad luck away. Jessie thought this hilarious and teased me about my silly superstitions.
Celia spoke about how she had said a novena to Pope John Paul to keep her grandson, who is prone to asthma, healthy this Autumn and guess what? The kid has not had even one minor attack! Jessie nodded in agreement, said that the novena seemed to be working.
I burst out laughing. So....it was SILLY to throw salt over my shoulder and the work of Satan when I listened to a psychic, but it was all just okey dokey to think that Pope John Paul was up in heaven singlehandedly keeping one kid in Iowa healthy? I mean, Jeezo Pete, call me crazy, but maybe he could be helping some poor kid in Africa who is dying of malnutrition instead of staving off the wheezies for Celia's grandson, who is basically a healthy, happy kid?
Patrice to the rescue. She asked whether we wanted raisins in the stuffin' at Thanksgiving this year. We all gather at her house. Of course, Jessie vetoed it immediately, she hates raisins. I commented that I kind of liked those raisins.
The stuffin' won't have raisins. I'd bet my mortgage on it. Spoiled rotten brat.
But, then...you know...other things happened that night to make me realize that there is nothing quite so wonderful as sister love. As we were climbing some stairs to get to the play house for our play, I almost lost my balance in my high heels. It was Jessie's arm that steadied me. And her arm that stayed around me as we climbed the stairs together.
We might argue like bandits, but when push comes to shove, my sister is going to steady me when I lose my balance.
My sister, Patrice loves show tunes. In the car on the way to the play, she had on her cd of ANNIE! By the time we got home that night, I was ready to scream if I had to hear about the sun coming up tomorrow or it being a hard knock life one more time. Celia needed to run to Walgreens because she had forgotten to pack her toothbrush so I offered to take her. We got in my car and I turned to her smiling broadly.
"How about if I turn on my cd of the soundtrack from OKLAHOMA!?" I asked. She paled. I had seen her looking out the window in Patrice's car looking like she didn't like hearing about betting yer bottom dollar about the sun coming up either.
Celia was torn, I could see it. She is the quietest, the most unassuming out of all of us. I punched in the cd player.
This came on:
We looked at each other and laughed.
"Oh, GOD...THANK YOU!" she shouted. I cranked it up and we grooved all the way to Walgreens, even adding some hand gestures that worked perfectly.
Celia may look like a quiet angel, but she has a rocker heart.
When my sisters left on Sunday, I was ready to say goodbye, but missing them already too. Patrice and I see each other at least once a week, but I only see Celia and Jessie on certain holidays or when we take a visit to see each other.
When I was a child, I shared a bedroom with Celia. She let me sleep with her in her bed when it thunderstormed. Patrice makes me strong coffee every single time I come over to visit and she hates coffee, never drinks it. It is just for me. Jessie and I are on polar ends of the spectrum when it comes to religion and politics but if someone was messing with her, I'd want to be there to kick their ass out of the park. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago, my sisters and I all circled around her, trying to shield her with our love. When her hair fell out and she started wearing baseball caps everywhere, so did we. We didn't want her to feel like she was all alone. Because she wasn't. We were right there with her.
My sisters have a place in my heart that no one else does. There is this one place that is just for them, nobody else. When we sat around that restaurant table a few weeks ago, talking and laughing....well...we all leaned in towards each other with our body language. We belong to each other. Even when I want to punch Jessie in the kisser for being such a smug Catholic, there is this other part of me, a bigger part that knows that I would walk through fire to protect her. When she was battling cancer (and she is nearly five years free of it!), I asked her if there was anything I could do to help. She asked me to go buy a religious candle, light it, and pray for her.
I sighed. But, I did it. I went to a Mexican grocery and bought one of those tacky looking prayer candles...okay...I bought TWO of them. I lit them every single night and bowed my head and prayed even though I felt like I was doing it all wrong and didn't have the slightest idea who to pray to. I just did it. And I still light those candles every night. I think I have gone through about ten of them by now.
And Jessie would scoff at this, but I am superstitious. I have this crazy idea that my candles are keeping her safe from cancer. The thought of a life without any of my sisters almost makes me feel ill. They are mine. They are Republicans. They are not sure how to handle my strange self. But, I know in my heart that the feeling is mutual, that they love me every bit as much as I love them.
But, that doesn't mean that I didn't bitch and moan about them to Bing when I finally got home that night.....
And after Thanksgiving, I will ride home with Bing and Liv and roll my eyes and say, "Did you hear that idiotic thing that Jessie (or Patrice, or Celia) said? God, I can't believe that I have a family like this!"
And yes, they will go home from Thanksgiving dinner too and there will be comments about my way too liberal self.
But, I laugh hardest with my sisters and I know that if I fall...well...there will be three hands reaching out to catch me.