I’m driving down Tharpe Street today on my way to meet my husband for dinner when I start thinking about my little sister (the older little sister), and about how I miss her so much some times. For those who don’t know me very well, I have three siblings. I am the oldest by almost eleven years, so that by the time the first little sister was born, I was already pretty old(ish). And then when my brother was born, I was already a teenager, and by the time the youngest one was born I was already out of the house (thankfully)! So there I was driving along thinking about how even though there are a lot of years between us, and I love her like crazy, I’ve always been slightly jealous of her (a: because she got the cool name; and b: because she is a much better writer than I am; and c: because she can draw and is really funny). And thinking of my jealously made me laugh because usually the little sisters are the ones who are supposed to be jealous of the older sisters… not the other way around. And that got me to thinking about how our lives are now and how hard we try sometimes to have a relationship and how hard it is to have said relationship because of the years and miles between us. But mostly, what I think of is how things were when we were kids and how much I hate that life happened the way that it did to bring us to where we are now. I guess I think about this stuff because as a foster mom, I constantly am reminded of how awful people can be to their children, and the good Lord knows my mom and her dad were awful to us when we were kids.
I think my little trip down memory lane today was triggered by the fact that my son has been giving me a hard time the last couple of nights going to sleep. He’s apparently decided that bedtime is optional – and for a four month old I just don’t think that optional bedtimes are acceptable. Anyway, I started thinking about how when little sister was about three years old she started going through a phase where she didn’t want to take naps. But when I had to babysit (which was pretty much all the time) I wanted her to take naps so that I could play records and chill out (remember… I was only thirteen at the time). So when she would try to get up out of her bed and come bother me (which is what I thought she was doing back then) I’d trot her right back into the bedroom and put her right back into bed – and then I’d “trick” her into staying in bed by covering her up with every single one of her stuffed animals and then running my finger over her eyebrows until she got sleepy enough to stay asleep.
This one little memory made me realize just how much of my childhood I had tried to forget over the years and a lot of stuff came flooding back into my brain that I thought I had safely compartmentalized and locked away. This one little memory made me start thinking about our Grammy and Grampy’s house in Wildwood and about the day little sister was born and about the house on Chuli Nene and about the time little sister ran away and showed up on my doorstep. And I realized that I was going through these memories like little mini flashbacks that were quick in my head but so freaking detailed that I almost felt like I was going back in time.
In the span of five minutes and four miles, I had managed to remember teensy little details like the color of the shag carpeting in the sewing room of my Grammy’s house, which led me to remembering the earliest of my memories about my mother and father which was of them fighting at my Grammy’s while we were visiting (I think I was about five). I remembered the sound of surprise my mother made when we awoke one morning to find that my little sister had decided to “cook” in the middle of the night and had laid out all of the ingredients for omelets and all of the kitchen utensils on the floor in the family room of the trailer we lived in – I think she even “scrambled” the eggs (little sister was about three years old I think). I remembered the day I came home from a visit with my Grandma and brought back some cool makeup how mad I was when I found little sister in the bathroom unceremoniously dumping all of my new makeup down the bathroom sink – the smell of the toner she was dumping out was incredibly strong in my nose (I was maybe fourteen). And then I remembered how excited I was to learn that someone figured out little sister and little brother belonged to me after they had been “kidnapped” by their dad and lost to me for so many years – I could almost taste the salt from my tears on my cheeks (I was in my twenties when they were “found” and they were five and three when he took them).
So in this short drive, a lot of little things came into my head. I realized that many of the issues little sister(s), little brother and I had as children were things that were repeating themselves in homes all around the world. The emotions and agonies we’ve experienced over the years are nothing any more special than those of other families who’ve been torn apart by life, but somehow, subconsciously (possibly) I found myself trying to heal the wounds of my past by becoming a foster mom. Some people turn to booze or drugs to self medicate… apparently I turn to emotional turmoil to help soothe myself.
My little sister has been dealing with some pretty powerful stuff… and from a thousand miles away, it’s hard to try to help. But I guess I’ve been dealing with some pretty powerful stuff, too, as evidenced by my little flashback montage today – but I’ve dealt with it by trying to fix other people’s stuff (it’s easier to fix someone else’s stuff than your own I reckon). My sister has been dealing with her stuff by putting it on paper – this wonderful mix of words and drawings that make the awful so much more deal with-able. And once again, I find myself jealous of her because she can put into words and pictures what I can’t, and I want to be able to do that so badly. So I guess since I can’t get my stuff out on paper as well I’ do what I can do and just go “trick” my son into falling asleep by rubbing his eyebrows like I used to do for little sister (it is, after all, way past his bedtime)… it’s not much, but it’s what I know I can do. :)