Monday, June 8, 2009


I grew up with two sisters, older than me, and a younger brother. The eldest sister, gone from my life before she died, was gone because she didn't want me to be in her life. Didn't want to see me, or talk to me.

I can't explain why easily, but I'll try because I want to understand.

My second sister is the center of her own large, devoted, successful family. I am a foreigner. They might have taken me in if I'd made an effort, but I couldn't. Didn't. What she is -- strong, over-powering in her opinions, makes me disappear. Silence overcomes me. I'm not able to join in and be what I am

My brother drowned at 18. My father, who'd already had a series of strokes, died that same year. Mom went to Europe with me and my dance company. She never really recovered from losing her son and husband, but she was in my life, always there for me -- her light is on all the time in my office, as I said in "Night Light," (posted April 13th.)

It's my oldest sister I want to sing a song to ...

She played the piano. We sang Gilbert and Sullivan songs, words, rhymes, tunes that still ring in my mind.

She inspired me. To read. To draw. To play-act. To go for broke, Have big dreams. Reach for the highest branch of the tree, the highest star -- beyond the stars, and dig into the earth, the stones, and rock below below. Have a large vocabulary -- including all the sex words, cuss words, all the lingo of her/my generation -- plus humor, "dirty" mind, curiosity, about what "dirty" was, and why it wasn't dirty.

Semantics mattered. He, my first love at age 15, was fascinated by Semantics, and my sister. He was in love with her, or maybe she was in love with him? I thought so. She said so. But Semantics meant "Cow one is not cow two" -- (their favorite quote from Hayakawa's "Language in Action") -- ergo, her love, his love, my love mattered in three separate, different ways.

"Em, " (I'm addressing myself:) "You couldn't create a deeper more complicated relationship..." (I reply:) "Shut up! Just tell how she inspired you."

She made a costume. Japanese lady, kimono, wig , Was it a costume she wore in some Gilbert and Sullivan operetta? I was too young to attend a performance. What I remember is the long hatpin she poked through the fake hair, buns, a roll -- all made from parts of a black cotton stocking -- so real --such an elegant hairdo, such an incredible costume!

She made me a witch costume, made me make myself a gypsy costume. Out of kitchen curtains that I gathered on the sewing machine -- the very first thing I ever sewed -- gypsy skirt, gypsy top!

(Somewhere in this blog I wrote about a costume I made from a pattern, a dress with a bustle for a Thanksgiving pageant. Gosh, I wouldn't have had the nerve, zest, fire -- to undertake such a project it weren't for her!

She lived in the top of our house in the attic room with eaves. A magic room, a place of her own, where, if you visited, you were in her world and could see, perceive, touch, reach for, grab, latch onto the realm of dreams.

Sad side of her ... I experienced that later ... Small, tight, closed-off areas of her which prevented her, in her own life, from having the expansiveness that I feel I have, I know I have because of her.

She was cramped and tamped down. Cramped as if she'd put herself into the wrong quarters of a wrong house. Tamped as you tamp down grass seed you're seeding in a lawn -- pressed into the earth, but missing water, minerals, those elements in the soil that enable you to sprout.

She did though. She had a baby. She broke all sorts of rules. She tried outrageousness, tried hedonistic wild behavior. She acted, play-acted. Bravely rejected people and things that might have protected her, and kept her safe. And she got hurt.

If she were alive I'd say "Sit down! Listen to me, dammit! You mean more to me, meant more to me, did more for me than anyone I know. Taught me, nourished me, showed me, led me, boosted me -- everything that is good about me today was pushed, gently pushed out of the nest by you, my incredible, inspiring sister."

How can I ever post this? If my other sister reads this, she might be hurt, or angry. If my niece reads this, it may give her pain ... Well, maybe joy ... My niece, the tender dear child my sister had, saw and lived and got from her mother, all these things in a different form.

1 comment:

Carola said...

What a beautiful write-up about Miriam. It's like a poem. Thank you very much. I will print it out and keep it.