Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Travels with My Sister

My sister and I took a spin a couple of weekends ago. I drove to her home north of Detroit and spent the night with her family. Then we piled our junk into my little SUV and drove several hours northwest to Cadillac, MI. Along the way, we detoured to the Soaring Eagle Casino and made a contribution to the Indian reservation.

In Cadillac, we stopped at the Elks Lodge downtown. The occasion was the monthly meeting of the local Red Hats group, the Red Hat Rascals. Our mother was in charge of the day's event and had invited us to teach eight lovely ladies how to make garden stepping stones. My sister and I are too young to qualify as Red Hats, so we wore pink hats instead, as allowed in the rules.

The group was appreciative and willing to get their hands dirty. We enjoyed the challenge and in an hour, these ladies had each made a personalized concrete stone about 9" round. The stones were simple but touching. One simply said "God Bless" and featured a cross of colored stones with a pink faceted heart at the center. Another dedicated her stone to her graddaughter Libby, and others were decorated with simply flowers or dragonflies.

They also conducted their club business, read some poetry, and enjoyed a skit (put on by my mother, sister and me). Then they retired to the bar for wine, popcorn and chit-chat.

My sister and I spent the evening with Mom and Dad - dining, playing cards, looking through old report cards and photos, and laughing. The next day, we piled everything back in the SUV and headed south, pausing again at the casino, where I took back my donation from the day before.

It was a long and tiring drive, from Cadillac to Cleveland with a detour to drop my sister off at home, but it gave me plenty of time to think. The trip was probably the most time I had spent alone with my sister since before she got married 27 years ago. Without having to "perform" in the kitchen (usually we see each other over family holidays with hordes of people milling about and asking for things), we got to be kids again. We laughed a lot - but not at each other. We remembered shared events - and sometimes we remembered them differently. We compared notes on husbands and grown children, on education and work, on our parents and retirement, and on musical preferences (she's country, I'm undefinable).

So what did I learn? Well, we will always be two very different people. I'm dark-haired, she's lighter. She smokes, I never have. I have a master's degree, she stopped at high school. I live and work in the city, she's on a rural route. I live and breathe by the computer, she hardly uses one.

But we are also cut of the same cloth. We have a shared history that no one else can ever duplicate. Our senses of humor are set in tandem, so the same things set us off and we think of the same punchlines at the same time. I write for a living and she is a clever poet, although she doesn't see it that way. It's corny, but in a sense, we complete each other. My sister is as much a part of me as my memories are.

I remember thinking a while ago that I was not very close to my sister, but this little weekend jaunt (our Thelma and Louise trip, if you will) has taught me that we are much closer than I imagined. I hope she feels the same way, and I look forward to more sister-bonding trips in the future.

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