Sisters are a beautiful thing

My sister Susan turns 31 today; I haven't gotten to talk to her, which bums me out, so I decided to write some stuff here about her, and about how happy I am to have sisters.

This blue is almost the china blue of their eyes, those dark-haired girls, and their skin is milk-white, with perpetually rosy cheeks. Pretty girls, both, and Susan can be favorably compared to Winona Ryder or Drew Barrymore, she's got that look. Of course, Susan's not larcenous like WR or nuts like DB seems to be, or was, I guess, so she's got that going for her.

Susan's 6 years and 8 months younger than me, and Jeanne is 4 years and 3 months younger than her. Being almost 11 years older than Jeanne has meant that Susan and I were a lot closer growing up, but now that we're all adults, it's balanced out, which is lucky.

When Susan was a baby, she had what was then called colic, although who knows if that's really what it was or if they'd tag it as reflux nowadays or something. At any rate, I moved in with Dad and Terry when I got back alone from Israel, while Mom was setting up a life for us in Georgia, and I shared a room (the living room, in fact) in the little apartment in Jersey City where we lived before Dad and Terry bought their first house. In the middle of the night, Susan would wake up (which is a hobby of babies', as you may have heard), and after Terry had come in and done whatever needed doing, I'd get up verrrrry very quietly and go sit on the floor next to the crib and whisper to Susan, or sing, or just hold her hand through the bars of the crib. One of my most lasting memories is her huge eyes in her little round face, eyes blue and luminous and reflecting what little light there was in the room, and her baby breathing as she slowly fell back to sleep. I used to sing to her in the car, bearing in mind that this was the end of '73, early '74, "The Most Beautiful Girl" by Charlie Rich. Having a colicky baby sister, that line about a beautiful girl crying hit home, plus I guess I didn't realize that he didn't mean "baby" (as in "tell her that I need my baby") the same way I did.

When Jeanne was a baby, I was around less, because I lived in Georgia with Mom, and was going through that miserable unpleasant pre-adolescent phase of being an unspeakable bitch to my mother and pretty much an uncooperative pain in the ass with Dad and Terry. Jeanne was a little bitty sweet girly baby, and really looked like a little doll. Dad called her "Dolly" for awhile, and she was a sunny little miss. She had hilarious little quirks and habits, of which two stand out from when she was a little under 2 and about 2 1/2.

We went to Cape Cod for a week the summer before James was born. I was 12, Susan was almost 6, Jeanne was almost 2, and we all went out to dinner one night at this Italian place in West Dennis or somewhere. Dad and Terry were talking, but the place was family-style and really noisy, and they were trying to hear each other, so Susan and Jeanne and I were just kind of drawing and telling stories and eating our bread and butter. Dad buttered a piece of crusty Italian bread and handed it to Jeanne, in her high chair. Watching him out of the corner of her eye, she licked all the butter off the bread, then handed the bread back to him. Talking, he buttered it again, and handed it back to her. Again, making sure he wasn't paying attention, she licked off all the butter. Handed it back to him. He was about 3/4 of the way done with buttering it for the third time, when Terry said, "Richard!" and he looked at the bread, which had sort of deteriorated around the edges, thanks to being molested by a toddler. He scraped off most of the butter he'd just put on the bread, handed it back to Jeanne, and said, "Just eat the bread!" Well. She didn't care for that one bit, and narrowed her eyes to the teeeeeeeeniest slits you can imagine, all black eyelashes entangled as teeny glints of bright blue showed, sliding sideways over my dad with daggers in her glance. And she folded her little arms in mutiny, but not until she pushed the bread off the high-chair tray onto the tablecloth.

Second episode, probably 10 months later, we were in Kenilworth and our aunt Florence and Uncle Harry were there with our cousin Christopher, and we'd barbecued (it was probably 4th of July weekend, now that I think of it), and Jeanne had been given steak, cut up into tiny pieces so she could manage it with her 2 1/2 year old teeth. So we're all sitting around the kitchen eating dinner, and she's making her way through vegetables and pieces of cooked potato, and her steak...Except all of a sudden, Dad goes behind her chair to dump his trash in the garbage can, and gets a closer look at what's still on her tray.... He says, "HEY! What are you doing?!?! Eat your meat!" and gets the above-described look of death he'd gotten the previous summer, and she says, "Don't say that, Daddy!" Turned out she'd been chewing all the flavor, color, and texture out of the beef and leaving the raggedy gray remainder bits (all chewed) on her tray, or on the floor, or in her seat. She got sent from the table for sassing, which Terry calls being "fresh", but she did ultimately get to eat the steak the way she wanted to....

Thanks, girls, for being the sweetest babies, and little girls, and great women. Happy birthday, Dusan; I love you so much.