Today is All Saints’ Day, a major feast in the Christian tradition. It’s also Dia de los Muertos. And it’s also the birthday of two of my favorite people in the world: Steve and my sister. It’s a fitting festival for fall, colorful and reeking with death and ghosts. I think that Steve and DKK also have a marvelous blend of color and passion and darkness in them. And to tell the truth, this scared me about them. I am a sunny Leo, all bright smiles and pleasing, if a bit manipulative and ego-driven. Their seething power is something that I can not control or influence, and that used to bug me.
As a kid, I shared a room with my older sister for 9 years. I used to be frightened of her insistent non-compliance under our very strict father, and so I would nag her and repeat his instructions and try to get her to do what would keep her out of trouble. I don’t know why I thought my two cents would make an impact when my father’s words were disobeyed. What do you do with a pestering younger sister? You beat her up occasionally. That kept me afraid and convinced that she really hated me. I did not understand her at all. She was power and mystery and goddamn smart to boot. Then we moved and finally got separate rooms. And we went to the same High School and had some friends in common. Still, there was a kind of power struggle and competition going on. She dated older guys I was crushing on. She was better than me at Italian and spent a summer in Italy — and that was supposed to be MY language. She was supposed to stick to Latin! She did me the favor of passing my first love note to a boy in her Senior English class…who became my husband for 24 years until his death. And I tattled on her and brought the wrath of my father down upon her. I didn’t see her much for a long time, but I wrote to her, and I prayed for her.
I remember one All Saint’s Day sitting in a church in southern California, thinking about her birthday. I decided that she was a saint, too, and that I would write to her again. It was a holy moment, one that I knew might change me, and I was willing. I think the thing that made me see how much we have in common, how much we really care about each other, was motherhood. When we both had babies, I had three to her one, and we had lots to talk about. I began to see her hopes and values and fierce love writ large on her parenting style, and her dynamic became more understandable to me. She had the same parenting model to work with as I, and we were both fashioning our response to it in our individual styles. I began to recognize her and appreciate her in a way I never had. I wish we could spend more time together as we grow older. We keep growing closer, even though we live half a continent apart.
So that’s today’s version of Favorite Memories of (My Sister), my family’s traditional birthday game.
And now, favorite memories of the birthday boy, still dozing beside me.
I’ve known Steve for 3 years. Three very important, reformative years. When we met, I had been a widow for only 7.5 months. Although sane, I was rather raw and fragile. So was my family of 4 children. He’s never been married and has no children. In the pool of dating possibilities, he was advised against choosing the widow. But he loves a dark, complex, engaging challenge. And apparently, he loves me. So when my youngest daughter, grieving the loss of her father, contemplated the presence of this new man in my life, she became passionately angry. It terrified me, and I ran away. My new friend wasn’t scared of her at all. In fact, he stood up for her saying that her emotions were completely justified. He cared about her and understood her in a way I hadn’t. He sat down with both of us and listened as we struggled to repair our relationship. He offered his observations calmly and honestly and maintained a safe place for both of us. He made a huge difference in a very critical time, and for that, I will always be grateful…and a bit awed.
Passion is a marvelous hallmark of life. It is scary in many ways, but adds so much. I am learning to be open to it more and more. And I thank DKK and Steve for helping me learn how. Happy Birthdays, youse guys!
thank you dear sister, for your reflections on my birthday. I love your birthday game and have been spending the day thinking of favorite memories of a number of people close to me. I found that “favorite memories” fall into two categories for me: recent, sweet memories that make me smile to recall them, and powerful moments in relationship that revealed something important to us, no matter how painful they may be to recollect. I believe that as roommates we must have had several instances of caring companionship or else we would never tolerate each other now. However, it is interesting that what comes first to mind from the deep past is the little frictions between us and the projected roles we gave each other.
Here are a couple of examples of caring companionship: in the summer, you’d walk me to Custard’s Best Stand in Forest Park for frozen bananas dipped in chocolate, and when I was going into 7th grade, you walked me to the mall in Oak Park and bought me a dress for my birthday. And you took me to Keystone Park right after I split my chin open. I remember sitting with you on a park bench, bleeding into a dish towel wrapped around a bag of ice and waiting for Mom to get home. Even in these memories, I have a sense of your adventurous spirit, a bit of danger. You didn’t stay home with me, you took me somewhere. You were willing to be caring, but not too concerned with being totally “safe”. Remember climbing on the porch roof when Sarah was babysitting? I was always worried about getting into trouble, and you kept challenging that anxiety. Funny, Steve does the same thing. I guess the important thing that reveals to me is my fear-based approach to the world.That’s something for me to face and work on.
yeah, I bet your kids never gave you the moniker “Danger Mommy” the way mine did.
tee-hee. No, they called me “Cheap and Weird”.
My favorite memories of both:
I remember being invited to Barefoot Boogie when I was 17 and having the kind of miserable, self-conscious, angst-filled summer that only 17-year-olds can have. Dancing with my aunt, and learning that it was possible to dance (or, really, do anything at all) with joyous abandon, was one of the most blissful experiences I’ve had. I also remember very fondly a thoughtful conversation she had with me recently about artistic passion and daily practice– one of many thoughtful conversations I remember very fondly.
Of Steve, it’s a tossup between the numerous fascinating discussions we’ve had about things like anarcho-syndicalism and the nature of social responsibility… and coming home to discover he’d hidden a mummified fish in the microwave :D.