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Friday, July 31, 2015

Forty Years With A Little Sister

When I was four, my mom and dad came home. “We have news.” We were standing on our lime green and black striped rug in the den when my mom smiled a very big smile beneath a neat bob haircut. “I’m going to have a baby,” she announced. After that, all I remember is jumping everywhere with a smile that hurt really bad. I jumped on top of couches, beds, and anywhere that would take me up. I was going to be a big sister.

Then one morning, exactly forty years ago, I woke to find my grandma Nana there. My mom was gone, giving birth to my new sister Alison. When my mom and dad came home with my new sister, my stomach twirled twice as fast as it did on Christmas and there was that smile again... My wish had come true! I sat on a low couch holding Alison’s pink frilly shape while my older sister Pirrie held her bald head. Everything smelled so good— like Johnson’s baby powder. I was in Heaven. Though I had to share her, I believed that Alison was my very own baby. I wanted to take care of her forever.

As she grew, I got to feed my little sister Gerber baby food with a cute rubbery spoon. I stood on tiptoes at the white faux wicker changing table, carefully sticking a pink plastic topped diaper pin through folded cloth diapers as Alison "gooed" at me. I loved changing her diapers. I made funny faces that made her giggle, and for a little while I believed that I was the best at something— being a sister. 

Later Alison developed a hum that seemed to weave through the background of my childhood. She skipped, bounced, or played through her early years, trailing a happy melody behind. Her fuzzy hair tried to grow, but took a long time. Finally her head produced thin blond pigtails that stuck out like little feathers, twirling through the air, invigorating every person they passed. Her blue flittering eyes and high-pitched soft voice decorated the kitchen, the family room, the backyard…. Making everyone smile. My sister just made me so happy.

Years later, when I was beside myself after the man I was about to marry betrayed me, there came a knock on my door. Guess who? Alison. In one hand, she held a plastic carrier with her cat inside, and in the other hand, she held a suitcase. "I never did like him," she said plunking her things down. She moved in, just like that, until I felt better. One night, she told me that she had dreamt she tied up my ex-fiance with duct tape, leaving him on a beach. Even during my hardest times, Alison made me giggle. 

When Alison was thirty, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I became tormented with worry about her, until I saw how she handled her disease. She immediately gave her diabetes the name "Betty" and often is heard complaining about Betty's bitchiness. But that bitch hasn't slowed down Alison! Last year she ran thirteen half marathons to earn money to raise money for diabetes research. 

Today is Alison's birthday. Forty years ago she arrived, changing me and this world forever. When she calls, the twang of her voice makes me smile, just like it did when she was a baby. Nowadays she's a mom, a wife, a pastry chef, a writer, an editor, an artist, and most of all, Alison is that dry-humored person who will humble you with laughter.

Thank you God for forty years with my little sister. Without her, I wonder if I would be able to find my smile today...









Every Little Bit Matters



Copyright Amy Aves Challenger 2014
It was 10AM. I felt busy, preoccupied, and stressed. But I decided to give my six-year-old a little time before getting the “real” stuff done. She’d been asking me to draw with her for the last couple of days.

A while later, as we finished drawing a fairy’s dress, my daughter’s sing-song voice pulled me in, “And Mama, see, this fairy likes candy so much!” She drew a piece of striped candy beside the face of the curly-headed girl with wings outstretched. And as I watched my daughter, I felt a weird sadness.

I noticed the high pitch of her voice, the tiny freckles on her nose, the ratty state of the swimmer’s hair that she refuses to comb. I smelled the sweetness of her breath exuberantly pushing out joyful chatter. I noticed how big her blue eyes grew when she talked and how thoughtfully she considered the life of a fairy.

And I felt more aware than usual that next year my girl will be different. She might not believe in fairies. She might not want to draw with me. She might never again be this bubbly being flitting through my kitchen, drawing and cooing over a picture she’s created with me. And because I’ve been so forgetful lately, I started feeling a panic about whether I might remember it all— exactly how it looked, felt, sounded. I worried I’d lose the moment.

And then it occurred to me that so many of us are running about capturing time with photographs or blog posts or emails or texts. The elusive quality of life is terrifyingly slippery. We get techy gadgets to bottle our moments. We share them with people who might remember them on Facebook, Twitter or Pintrist. If we don’t catch that moment or the next one, it just might slip away, into the forgotten memory bank of the wandering brain…into the terabytes of time hopping by. So we run around snapping, snatching, pinning life with all the bits of memory we can gather.

And I went on to think that there will come a day when I’m not with this girl any longer — at least not in this world. Where will my memories lie then? One day we’ll part from one another, I thought. How cruel. And then the tears started creeping out, betraying my depressing mind. I couldn’t believe I had managed to make this lovely time we were having feel sad.

“Mommy, are you OK?” her voice snapped me back to the present. Her thin eyebrows were raised. She had just finished drawing the star on the fairy’s magic wand.

“Oh yes, I’m fine!” I replied, quickly wiping my eyes with a sniff. “That wand is perfect!”

And as we finished our fairy, I felt like a different mom than minutes before— one able to see and hold and take in the real miracle of my child— the breathing, zippy girl, right there at the messy kitchen table. It was sort of like a talking gift had bonked me on the head, shouting, “Hey! Pay attention! Look what you got! Enjoy it, lady!”

I pray I remember that my family, my children, my friends, my life are HERE. And they’re bigger than my worries, my lists, or my fear of the future. They’re bigger than a photograph or a blog. They’re much bigger than a megabyte or a kilobyte or whatever. They are my miracles that exist only truly— right now.

I pray I learn to savor every little “bit” of life I’m given and that, along the way, my soul carries those bits into eternity.


May my daughters’ fairies live forever, in my heart, and in hers.