Vignettes: Sisters

19 Feb

Small memories and stories concerning my family and my history

The first house: 607 Colonial Drive


I was the fourth child born into my family — the third to survive infant-hood. Marilee, the first-born, died of mysterious causes, now thought to be sudden infant death.

Kim was born when Dad was in the South Pacific, and Andi two years later in DC where he and the family settled for a short period of time. Falls Church.

They moved to High Point to chase an apple that Dad’s ex-captain of the ship he served on dangled in front of him. That’s another vignette yet to be written.

I came along in 1949 in November, and was three years behind Andi, and five behind Kim.

It’s amazing any of us survived our childhoods.

Kim and Andi fought like cats and dogs, although I only heard of the famous battles.

One of those was that Kim pushed the baby carriage Andi was in over an unfenced roof. It landed in bushes, and Andi was spared.

Another was the story of Kim stabbing Andi in the arm with a lead pencil. Afraid of the consequences and thinking her little sister would waive it off, Kim offered her arm up for retribution.

Surprise. Andi stabbed her back. To this day each has the mark of broken lead still in her arm.

I wasn’t immune to these “innocent” behaviors.

My sisters tell of a day when they pushed me down the sidewalk in a baby carriage and let go. I have a vague memory of pulling up to look and see our five-year-old next door neighbor sitting on the roof of her wraparound porch and waving at me as the carriage sped by.

Kim was tall and skinny, with dark hair that was in a bowl cut when she was young. Andi was a bit more zoftig — as my skip would say — with dirty blonde hair. Also bowl cut. I think my mom cut both their hair.


Our house, a two-story brick quasi-Georgian style, had a set of french doors that opened out onto small half-round porches. These were on either side of the chimney. Each of the porches had black wrought iron railings.

One of my sisters’ favorite pasttimes — and I have vivid memories of this — was to dress up like Indians using washcloths tied at the edges to cover their fronts and rears. They wore nothing else. They would emerge from the house onto the wrought iron porches and model, grabbing the railing with one hand and putting the other hand toward the back of their bowl cuts, and saunter about, smiling and laughing.

Whenever a car came they would dash into the house.

They will deny this, I am certain. To me, it explains a lot.

Insey, Lynn and Barbie

My sisters had friends throughout the neighborhood. Insey was cute, and ate chicken drumsticks into the marrow of the bone.

Lynn was tall and skinny. Her whole family was tall. She had a funny accent, I thought. Her hair was curly.

I was fascinated with Barbie — the only doll my sisters had that drew my interest. Other than National Geographic and my mom’s copy of The Baby Book, Barbie was my introduction to female anatomy at a young age.

Once I saw a copy of Playboy on a coffee table in the basement of the Proper’s house next door. I saw a fully nonclothed woman clutching a stage curtain, her bare legs and derriere exposed. An image quite removed from those of National Geographic.


There is a black and white photo of Kim, Andi and me gowned in the white cassocks we wore for church choir performances. We are at the piano, apparently singing. This was long before audio/video technology was available, which would have belied the singing abilities of my sisters. Andi was pretty much tone deaf, and Kim was not far behind in her singing skills.

All three of us took piano lessons from a piano teacher who worked from her house a short walk away. The efforts to produce great pianists failed on us all, and our piano — a Mason Hamlin that was somewhere between a grand and a baby grand — remained to be a very large museum piece in the family for decades.

The String and Splinter

On some Sundays, my dad would pack everyone into the Pontiac sedan and we would drive to The String and Splinter restaurant for lunch. The restaurant featured a stage with a live band that played as people ate.

At some point, the band leader would invite children to come up onstage and perform for the reward of a large color swirled lollipop on a huge stick. The flat pop was as big as a 45 record. Most of the kids chose to direct the band, taking the band leader’s baton and swinging their arms in large circles as the band played to their own tempo.

One Sunday I wanted to go up with my sisters. I wanted one of those lollipops.

Kim and Andi did the baton thing ahead of me. When it came to my turn, the band leader approached with his baton extended and I shook my head no.

“I want to sing.”

Surprised, the band leader asked what I would like to sing. Happy Birthday?

“Jee-sus luffs me,” I told him (at least that’s the way my dad said I pronounced it).

The band leader had to ask if anyone in the band knew the song. By that time I had stepped up to the mic and was singing — a cappella.

“Jee-sus luffs me, this I know . . . ” to the end.

My grandmother Gommy was in tears. Dad said you could have heard a pin drop in the restaurant, normally loud with table conversation.

When I finished, there was an awkward moment when people did not know if they should clap. After all, in our brown bagging community, each table sported a variety of liquor bottles, and what would Jesus think?

I simply turned to the band leader, extended my hand for the lollipop, and returned to the table, tearing the clear cellophane from my treat.

My sisters were already licking theirs with great fervor.

2 Responses to “Vignettes: Sisters”

  1. RoSy February 19, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    I think Jee-sus would have had a sip o’ spirits after the song.
    Cheers! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: