Wednesday, November 9, 2011

With Love From John

Anyone who’s lucky enough to know my sister Susan (aka Susie, Sue, Hoogan, or ’oo’ie) would agree that she is warm, vibrant, multi-talented, and driven by boundless energy. And, I would add, shining through and linking these is a primary trait: generosity. No, she and Bill have never had a lot of money, and probably won’t have any endowments or university dorms named after them . . . Though they’re, of course, quick to share anything they have. I mean more a generosity of spirit that seems to be unfailing.

Such a quality doesn’t appear out of nowhere or overnight. Let me take you back to a moment long ago, and far away — not in a distant galaxy, but Anchorage, Kentucky. Sister Susie was two years older than me. When we were very young children, the distance those years put between us was negligible, and we played together often, sharing made-up worlds, storylines, and jokes virtually as equals. But at some point in time that’s difficult to pinpoint, the older sibling crosses a threshold out of Neverland . . . never to return.
Though she was just starting out in grade school — possibly I was in kindergarten, but no older — Susie had crossed this line. Still, I recall sitting out in the yard, engrossed in watching a colony of ants scurry in and out of their underground city, when Susie crouched down next to me and asked “Do you still like to play pretend?” I said yes, I did, and she let me show her my ants, and the box turtle (“Boxie”) I’d found in the yard who now lived in one of the basement window wells, subsisting on hand-delivered earthworms and lettuce. Then we played our accustomed pretend games about princes, princesses, evil witches and magic.
Even as small children, we both knew this was “once more, for old times’ sake.” And, I suppose, began to learn a critically important lesson about life: You can’t go back — only forward. Later in the rotation of years and grades, we would pretend to be the Beatles on the front porch, enlisting neighbor kids to fill out the ranks, with coffee cans for drums and brooms for guitars. We’d improvise operatic duets about the evil witch who was forcing us to wash and dry a sink full of dishes. We’d put on weird one act plays (sound familiar?) for our parents, employing little Jimmy in one-line roles and making him the frequent victim of butter knife swordplay.
And on and on, to the present moment. Is it ever the same as the shifting phases of childhood? Of course not, and who would want that? But . . . it’s all good anyway, isn’t it?

Happy Big Round Number Birthday, Susie! Love you and hope to see you soon.
John & Michele

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