Chicken soup for the sou.., p.1
Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrates Sisters, p.1Jack Canfield
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL®
FOR THE SOUL®
A Collection in Words and Photographs by
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Maria Bushkin Stave
Backlist, LLC, a unit of
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
Cos Cob, CT
First Pick René J. Manley
Two Rockers Charlotte A. Lanham
Sister Bonding Betsy Banks Epstein
A Hole in My Heart Krista Allison
Doubly Blessed Christine Pisera Naman
My Sister’s Eyebrows Linda L. S. Knouse
Only the Two of Us in Sight Carol D. O’Dell
In Search of a Simpler Time Nancy Harless
The Wagon Beverly McLaggan
My Sister, Myself Faith Adiele
Beneath the Stars Diane Payne
Et, Tu, My Perfect Sister Jodi Severson
The Bologna Wars Tanith Nicole Tyler
We’ll each pick a number, starting from oldest to youngest, then we’ll each take a pick, in the order of our numbers. You understand?” Louise was fully in charge. We were taking our pick of Mama’s quilts.
None of us wanted to fight. Five sisters and one brother were trying valiantly to honor and respect our parents. Louise is the oldest and had the most daily contact with our mother before her quick death from cancer, long quietly taking over her body, but not loud enough to be noticed until too late. Here we sat, on a cold October day, six middle-aged children in the living room of our youth, with eyes red with grief and nervous sweaty hands.
These last six quilts our mother made were something we needed to be fair about and they were all laid out for our choosing. Although not works of art for the most part, they were our heritage. There was a queen-size Dresden plate and two twin-size patchworks, both in good shape. A double-size, double-knit polyester little girl quilt that we remembered from the era of leisure suits and a queen-size log cabin that told its age by the colors: orange and avocado. Then there was the quilt on my mother’s bed, a double-size star pattern of Wedgwood blue chintz and cotton. It was gorgeous. And it smelled like Mama.
We reached into the shoebox one at a time for our numbers, and being the baby, I picked last. Fitting, as I got number six, the last to choose from the bed-cover legacy. Libby was the first, and no one was surprised to watch her gather up the Wedgwood blue chintz and fold it into her bag. When my turn came, the double-knit polyester quilt was left, so I took it, remembering Mother handstitching the pitiful thing. So much work for so little beauty! We’ll keep it in the car, I thought to myself, for a picnic blanket.
As the holidays approached, our grief stayed with us, mostly hidden, but popping up unannounced as tears over a remembered song or a phone call impossible to make. We all moved our bodies toward Christmas, even as our minds stayed with Mother in her hospital bed before she died, or in her flower garden—or on her sun porch. Christmas would be hard.
Packages began to arrive, though, and I had to notice that the rest of the world didn’t stop in the shadow of my sadness. On Christmas Eve, my children have the privilege of opening one package before bed, but on this night they encouraged me to join in. A large box from Ohio had piqued their interest. What could Aunt Libby have sent?
Laughing, I tore open the box, expecting a joke: an inflatable chair or bubble bath buried in yards of newspaper. As I peeked past the wrapping, my hands shook and my vision wavered through a film of sudden tears. Inside the box lay, neatly folded, the coveted chintz quilt from Mama’s bed. I buried my face in the folds to take in the lingering scent of my mother, and to add my tears. On top of the quilt was a card:
To my baby sister—my first pick.
René J. Manley
My sister has two rockers.
She lives in Tennessee
And when I go to visit her
We rock and sip on tea.
The color of her rockers?
A dusty shade of blue.
They’re on the porch, beside the door
Where all the folks walk through.
At times we both drink Passionfruit.
At times we sip Earl Grey,
As on the porch we rock and watch
The seasons pass away.
We’ve talked about our children
We’ve laughed and cried together
We’ve sat with sun upon our laps
We’ve rocked in rainy weather.
Dear Lord, please save two rockers
On the porch called “Glorious Day.”
Make hers Eternal Passionfruit.
Make mine the King’s Earl Grey.
Charlotte A. Lanham
We began brainstorming two years ago, but somehow it took that long to plan our overnight in New York City. We were dreaming of a mini-vacation exclusively for us without the two husbands we adore and the five children we have mothered. Of course, we see one another often during holiday celebrations and other events but as we’ve lived in different states for almost twenty-four years, it’s hard to experience time together without the din of other people’s voices.
My sister is three years older than I am. When we were young, such a gap loomed like an enormous age difference. Was it because I was the middle child who learned to play both sides of the fence? If the world according to my little brother looked like more fun, I’d ally myself with him. If my sister started to enjoy the special privileges that came with her seniority, I’d beg to be included on her agenda.
At times, I drove her crazy. Since our shared closet connected our bedrooms, I could hide on my side and open her door ever so gently to find out how she was dressing for the day. Then I would scramble to imitate her style. For such an intelligent girl, it took her a while to figure out how I could successfully copy her.
Whether they do so consciously or not, parents usually label their children. This was especially true of our parents’ generation. My sister was the smart one, while I was the pretty one who still labors to this day to appear like I have a strong mind. My sister continues to fuss with her hair and makeup, and deliberates endlessly about her wardrobe.
We hatched the New York idea because we could catch dinner with our brother who lives there, but also because this city is a logical meeting spot between my home in Boston and hers in Baltimore. Daunted by our busy schedules and raging blizzards that derailed trains and grounded planes, we changed our lodging reservation four times over the course of a year.
Finally on a Tuesday, we were ready to synchronize our watches for our rendezvous. My train arrived at Penn Station miraculously on time; I scrambled outside to hail a cab. As my taxi approached the Soho Grand Hotel, I could see the slick concrete exterior and the bellmen tailored in black from head to toe. For our one night, we were aiming for chic sophistication.
In the lobby, my sister was the first person I saw. Arms open wide, she greeted me with a warm hug. “Did you find it okay? Are you hungry? I’ll show you the bathroom.” She said all three seemingly in one breath. I was smiling. Perhaps she would always mother me in the kindest of ways.
For our day and a half, we walked the streets of Soho and Tribeca. We ambled slowly as we luxuriated in our lack of routine or timetable. Behind our dark glasses, which shielded us from the bright sunlight and enabled us to feel like celebrities traveling incognito, we perused
During two-hour lunches, we indulged in praline dessert pastries and cappuccino refills. With no appointments to race to, we focused on one another as we pondered hormone replacement therapy, our aging parents, her upcoming teaching position and my writing career. Thirty years ago while I struggled to keep a horridly unattractive pink picture book hat perched safely on top of my head, my mother pointed out to me: “Even if your friends come and go, your sister will be your friend forever.” Those wise words not only fortified me for my walk down the aisle in front of my sister, the bride, but have also served as a reminder that our relationship is lasting and the confidences we share are secure.
Under fluffy white comforters in our hotel beds, we chatted long into the night and even saw the sky brighten with daylight before we closed our eyes. In the morning, I felt exhausted after a cup of espresso but sweetly fortified for the next sixmonths. Certainly we would figure out another respite with one another. Just the other day I received an e-mail from my sister. While accompanying her husband to New York for a business meeting, she had wandered around Soho by herself only to discover a new hotel for us, one which could possibly be more perfect than the last.
Betsy Banks Epstein
A HOLE IN MY HEART
Iwas just three and half years old when my dad was killed in a helicopter accident. Even though I do not remember him, I have always felt that his death left a hole in my heart. I have never known how to describe how I feel other than to say that a space was left in my heart that no one else could fill.
A few years ago my mother remarried after being a single mom for a long time. My brother and I were really shocked when she said she wanted another child.
She and my stepfather went through a lot of hard times with infertility to have a baby. Finally after many months, my mom found out she was expecting.
I was not sure at first how it would be with another child in the house because it had always been just my brother and me. My mom chose not to find out if she was having a boy or a girl.
After what seemed like a long time, my mom had a little girl named Bella on Valentine’s Day. I had secretly been praying all along for my mom’s baby to be a girl. The minute I looked at my little sister I knew she was something special. I think she was a gift to us to bring our two families together.
I realized after a very short time that Bella filled that big hole in my heart that had been there for so long.
Krista Allison, age thirteen
I was sitting in a play yard at a McDonald’s restaurant. What little food my five-year-old daughter was going to eat had been eaten and all that was left was the playing.
A handful of children scampered before me. My daughter was somewhere in the mix. After a few moments, she rocketed out of a pit of balls, scattering them everywhere.
“Natalie, be careful,” I muttered. She squealed in delight, not hearing a word. She ran toward me panting, “Did you see them?” she asked eagerly.
“Did I see who?” I cringed, nervous I was about to have one of those “my kid said what?” type situations.
“Them!” She pointed at two little girls about her age. “They’re the same kid twice!” She announced.
“They aren’t the same child twice,” I explained, smiling.
“They wear the same clothes,” she loudly noted again. “And the same face!” She bellowed completely elated at her discoveries.
“I think they’re neat!” she hollered over her shoulder as she ran off.
“Me, too,” I said, more to myself than anyone.
“Thank you,” came a voice next to me. I turned and realized she was the mother of the twins. She smiled. She seemed unoffended by my daughter’s gawking.
In silence we watched them play, my one and her two. I couldn’t blame Natalie for being fascinated. They were interesting to watch—and extremely cute in their matching pink outfits and identical haircuts. Even their eyes were the exact same color.
With amusement I noticed that within just mere minutes of retying one of their shoes the other limped over with her laces hanging. And almost in unison their matching barrettes seemed to plop from their heads.
I shrugged. If God could manage the miracle of bringing two identical beings into this world within minutes of each other then simultaneously falling barrettes and untied laces were nothing.
“They really are beautiful,” I commented.
She smiled proudly. “Thank you.”
We watched in silence a few minutes more while concentrating on the children. The play yard had now emptied except for us.
“They want me to separate them,” she announced. I faced her. We weren’t parallel talking anymore. We were talking to each other.
“Who?” I asked.
“The school,” she frowned. “They go to kindergarten next week and they think it’s best for them to be in separate classes.”
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I want them to be together,” she sighed. As I turned to face her I saw tears welling up in her eyes. I felt bad for her.
“They want you to but they can’t make you, right?” I asked, not meaning to oversimplify but instead trying to clarify her situation.
“No, they won’t make me. They just ‘strongly suggest,’” she said, emphasizing the words. She sighed, testifying that she had been struggling with this for awhile.
“Well, a lot of people ‘strongly suggest’ a lot of things.”
After a small silence she said, “I’m just afraid I’m leading with my heart.”
“Well, what else are you supposed to lead with?” For a second it was as if we were old friends. Mother bonding is a special thing.
“You know,” she laughed, “psychology and . . . and . . . and . . .” she couldn’t think of anything else. We laughed together.
Relaxing, we watched our children play. I couldn’t help but notice their mannerisms were the same. They hopped on the same foot, chose the same hiding place, held the same pose for freeze tag and giggled the very same giggle.
All of a sudden I cared deeply about them staying together. It would be wrong to separate them.
I faced the mother. “Think of it this way,” I said. “We spend our entire lives trying to find someone like us. We spend our entire lives looking for a best friend. Someone who likes and dislikes the same things we do, someone to be there for us, someone who’s known us from the start,” speaking hurriedly, grasping now for anything that might move her. “Heck, someone to sit with at lunch.”
“It looks to me,” I said, “that they were born with what the rest of us spend our whole lives looking for. If you happen to be that blessed, why should you change it?”
She faced me. Her eyes were wide. I had touched her.
“Are you a twin?” she asked.
“No,” I said shaking my head.
“You have a sister?” she pressed, sure that I did.
“No,” I said. As I spoke the word, I realized that I had learned something about myself I never knew before. Something I had kept hidden inside my own heart.
“I’m just someone who always wished she had,” I explained. A lump formed in my throat and my eyes filled with tears.
There wasn’t much left to say. My mind flickered back to memories of my childhood when I would play in my closet with my make-believe sister. Memories I had long forgotten.
We watched the kids a couple more minutes. Then almost together we checked our watches and said, “We better get going.”
“Thank you,” she said softly. I could tell it was from the heart.
“Girls,” she called them. They ran to her. One at a time they scampered to her side. She turned them toward me.
“Tell the lady
Dutifully, having no idea what they were thanking me for, they mimicked her thank you with such an exact pitch that it sounded as if it were one voice.
I laughed. They were amazingly cute.
“You’re welcome,” I answered. Leaning down to their level I whispered loud enough for their mother to hear, “Stick together.”
“They will,” she said, smiling at me.
Walking to the car Natalie asked, “Will I ever have a twin?”
“No,” I said, buckling her into the seatbelt. “You have to be born together, remember?”
“Right,” she said.
“Will I ever have a sister?” she asked as we drove out of the parking lot.
“No,” I said again, watching her in the rearview mirror. “I’m sorry you won’t.”
“I’m like you,” she reasoned. “You never had a sister either, huh, Mommy?”
“No honey, I didn’t,” I said, feeling a little bad for both of us.
“Well,” she said, with the optimistic wisdom of a five-year-old, “if I ever would have had a sister I would have really loved her.”
As I watched her drift off to sleep, I thought, I would have, too.
Christine Pisera Naman
MY SISTER’S EYEBROWS
It was more than forty years ago that my big sister Marcella and I had the conversation about eyebrows. I was a little girl and she was a blossoming young woman. She was sitting at her vanity preparing to go out when she looked over at me, laughed and said, “You’re the girl with no eyebrows!”
“I am not!” I retorted. But I knew she was right. My eyebrows were just stuck there above my eyes, sparse and straight, with no arch.
I often sat next to her vanity like that with my chin cupped in my hands, watching her “going out” ritual. First came eye shadow, then eyeliner on those marvelous mossy-green eyes. Pretty containers with swirled names like Maybelline and Cover Girl opened and closed with clicks and twists. Sometimes she would reach over and dab Chanel No. 5, Seven Winds or White Shoulders perfume on my neck. This anointing was like a promise that one day I would be a young woman, too.
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