Today, I’m participating in another writing prompt from Weekly Anamnesis. My post will offer my version of an event that my sister Ducky* wrote about in her own response to the same prompt, the word: birthday.
Please read her story first, since her version of what happened is really the foundation for my own, then come back here, if you would.
My sister remembers more about that day than I do, as she should. After all, the event was attached to her birthday. Her confusion. Her pain.
I was there, and I remember where I stood in the room, in relation to the three other people. My sister does not remember my presence, though there are other things about our young lives that she remembers and I do not. (Like being left in the parking lot of a discount store, and that Sue told us before we left the house that it was her plan to leave us there.)
I remember where my father sat, in the black leather chair, and where Sue sat, in her brown recliner. In my memory of the scene, Sue held the birthday card addressed to my sister. The presence of the card, the very fact of it, was a thrill in itself, despite what it said or did not say. We were not often allowed to speak of our mother, let alone hold in our hands a thing that she had sent.
So one thing I remember of that day was seeing my mother’s handwriting for the first time in memory. If I saw it before that day (and I may have,) I don’t remember it.
In the years that followed, I did wonder why our mother had not signed the card “Love, Mother”. It’s hardly the point of the story, but it shouldn’t be ignored, either. It occurs to me now that if the nature of the card had been different, if it had been filled with loving words, or signed with just one loving word, my sister would probably not have ever seen it at all. Instead, it gave Sue and my father an opportunity to make a point that they had tried to drive home for years.
Today as I prepared to write this, I thought of those diagrams of the human body (there was one in our old encyclopedia), the ones with the plastic overlays that each illustrate a different system of the body. The bottom layer is the skeleton, and after that the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive systems. When all the layers are in place, one over the other, the whole of the body takes shape.
It feels the same, with these stories, though there are only two of us to tell them. Her memory of that moment added to my memory, illustrates something closer to the whole of what took place. It would be interesting (though it’s unlikely) if our father could or would give an accounting of that day. I’m not sure he would even remember it now, though it was a painful moment in the life of his oldest daughter, his firstborn child.
Though I don’t remember my father asking why my sister was crying, or him holding her after, I do know that there are important days or moments that are pivotal and can change the future of a whole family.
And there are others, like this one, that did not.
*In case any of you are wondering, Ducky is a nickname that came about when my son was very young and couldn’t say her name well. Instead, it came out sounding like “Ducky.” My sister embraced it, and it has stuck ever since.