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Golden Geek: Sibling Memories

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Siblings: Carol, Dennis, and Judy in 1951 (click for larger image)

Having passed my 70th birthday, I was reminded of this photograph by the birthday cards I received from my sister Carol (left, above) and my sister Judy (right, above).  I don’t recall this photograph being taken, although a large version was prominently displayed near the front room of our family home in Tacoma, Washington.

It is touching to think how I and my two sisters stay connected after all of this time.  I am the oldest, with Judy just over two years younger, followed by Carol at a little over two more years.   (My birthday is first each year, followed by Judy in the Spring, Carol in the Autumn).

As youngsters, the three of us spent a lot of time together, especially on those rainy Northwest days when we weren’t in school. 

We also followed through the same school systems.   Once I moved from 6th grade at Horace Mann School to Stewart Junior High School, Judy and I would be in the same school only once out of every three years.    Carol and I were never in school together once I entered the 7th grade.  After high school, I went off to college in Pasadena for a short time, then moving to Seattle.   Shortly after Carol graduated from Lincoln High School in 1951 1961, I moved to New York City and remained in the Northeastern United States until I moved to California in 1992.  Returning to the Seattle area in 1999, I reconnected with Judy, who had remained here.

Both Judy and Carol attended Washington State University.  Judy returned to teach school.  Carol married and moved to Minnesota, where she remains near her two daughters and her grandchildren.  A few years ago Carol obtained a masters degree and began working in special programs for youngsters and young mothers.

The three of us have our separate lives.  Although Judy and I are nearby, we each have our own connections and activities, and we treasure the times we get to spend together.  It is a special treat when Carol is visiting out this way and we can connect in person.  Carol and Judy are more connected, often finding vacations and trips to take together.

The next time the three of us are together, we should restage this photograph.

All of this reminiscence is triggered by my birthday cards.   They remind me that as much as we have traveled quite different roads, our childhood connections hold on.  It also shows me how much I can be reminded of shared experiences that I have forgotten and that were memorable for my sisters.  It is one of those benefits of growing up family that we remember for each other.  I am thankful that our growing into adult friends is not marked by the turmoil and separation that I’ve seen in the families of others.

From Carol:

“Hope you have a wonderful celebration for your 70th.  I am working with a woman in Hospice, who 3 days after you turn 70, will turn 101.  When I told her I was 65 she said I was so young … so it is all perspective!  Enjoy life now.”

From Judy:

“I have been reflecting on some of our childhood times … .  Those decades may seem far away now that you are starting your 7th, but they are some of our sister and brother moments which I cherish.

“My first memory was when you were pushing me in a swing at McKinley Elementary school.  How awesome that my strong brother could send me soaring to the clouds that I wanted to touch.  Then with one last push, I tumbled off and landed in a mud puddle.  From sky to land how could I forget!  But I loved it. 

“The car travels to Illinois were also memorable as we shared the back seat.  There was lots of singing and wondering who would get to sit by the window.  That is also where I learned that there is no such thing as a bigger half and just because my brother was older he didn’t get to have the larger half of the candy bar.  I have used the half story many times in my teaching career as well that nickels aren’t worth more just because they are larger than a dime.  You were an important teacher of math skills on that trip.

“In Kankakee, I remember walking back and forth to school with you, going to outdoor theaters in cornfields and lying on blankets while we tried to act grown-up as we smoked candy cigarettes and puffed on licorice pipes.  I admired how fast you were when we played chase with Duchess the neighbor’s Great Dane.  Boy, you could get to a safe spot while she frequently ran me down.

“I went to my first scary movie with you and you didn’t have nightmares while I did.  How brave my big brother was not to see the creepy shadows on the bedroom walls.

“How awesome that you could ride a bike while I was still learning.  I bet you remember the numerous times I got my pant leg caught in the chains or my foot in the spokes when you were giving me a ride.  That bike ride learning certainly came in handy back in Tacoma with all the miles we spent biking to Chambers Cree, the South Tacoma Cut, Wapato Park and our neighborhood.

“Lots of memories in the Tacoma days.  How I loved that you would read the Sunday comics to me while lying on the living room floor as I was still learning to make sense of writing.  Man, you were such a reader. You would disappear and read while other activities were going on in the house.  School kids would call you the brain and mention how smart you were (are).  I also knew how impressed teachers were with you.  I though that was terrific and I was proud to be your sister.

“Do you remember the hours we spent together playing ping pong in the basement?  The challenge was to avoid hitting the overhead floor joists with our heads as well as keeping the ball out of the floor drain or the spider hiding places.  Of course, I will never forget the bomb shelter you started digging by the chimney base in the crawl space.  Quite a secret until Dad found out.

“You always seemed to have activities going that seemed mysterious and ‘male’ to me.  Chemistry mixes with obnoxious smells, photos dripping from laundry lines, red lights that signal do not enter my boy domain.  Hot dog cookers and earthworm zappers were made in junior high shop and brought home to demonstrate.  You had a paper route and later worked in a camera shop.  You had so many interests that seemed amazing to me as your younger sister.

“We had lots of evenings without the folks being around.  Those were the moments of snapping towel fights, sneaking up on each other in the bedrooms with the intent of scaring each other, talking back and forth from bedroom to bedroom, and just having sibling time.  I remember the sneaking of Dad’s cigarettes.  Hmmm, how did he know?”

It is wonderful to be able to look back and learn what was the best of it for each of us. 

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Yes, re-stage the photo! This one's great, but a current version next to it would be even better.
Dennis,It is interesting when I read your and Judy's rememberances how mine are both the same and different. I was only 13 when you left for CalTech so we knew each other only as much younger siblings. I wasn't in school with either of you more than a year though teachers always remembered you both and would mention you to me. I remember how when we lived in Kankakee how I got to "March Around the Breakfast Table" with both of you, only when you marched out the door to school, I had to stay behind. I remember trying to argue out of that with Mom. And I was a bit slow at learning to hold on to a tree so the Duchess,the great dane wouldn't knock me over in a game of tag. I still have the letter you wrote to me in college - we seldom actually wrote to one another so it was especially valued. You were trying to explain the concept of "0" to me so I am guessing I was asking for help with a math assignment. Even though we were seldom in the same geographic location, I always knew that if I needed either of you, you would be there for me. And I for you. That is still a wonderful gift. Carol H
Carol, I just love it that you comment on my blog. It warms my heart every time I see your comments.
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