Grab Your Depends! The Baby Turns 50
My “baby” sister recently turned 50.
The milestone called for a celebration that brought the three sisters together. That means, frankly speaking, the need to pack some Depends. I know, TMI, but I never escape a reunion with my sisters that doesn’t dissolve into a pool of laughter, resulting in the need for, well, a back-up plan.
It’s just a consequence of togetherness.
Being with my two younger sisters (I am the dinosaur in our threesome) never ceases to amaze me. How is it that three so completely different human beings can come from the same womb and the same parents? And yet, unless mom hooked up with the milkman at some point, that’s our story.
We are as different as three people can be.
Case in point: While one of us was in Washington to watch the inauguration of President Trump, at the same time, another one of us was participating in the women’s march donning a pink hat. The other stayed home and laughed at us both.
Tracey lives in California, Tara in New York and I’m in South Carolina.
We mostly steer clear of politics and stick to stuff we all agree on, and can always laugh about, and that is the sheer wonder of our childhood.
We agree our childhood was great because we had dedicated parents who were little more than kids themselves when they had us. I know now what I never knew then, that the five of us kind of grew up and figured it out together. And that was the magic of our parents’ parenting – they never let on how much they didn’t have or feared they might not be able to provide. They covered it all up with an abundance of love and protection.
And in a way that parents and kids can never know today because we have way too much and know way too much, life was fuller and freer before it got this easy.
Back then we could go and do because we had to – Amazon didn’t deliver.
We didn’t live vicariously. To paraphrase Nike, we “Just Did It.”
Before Google Killed the Library Star, information took effort, and knowing how to research was in itself deeply rewarding.
Heck, even air travel was glamorous once upon a time. Now it’s a simmering cesspool of Satanic stress and germs. Was that too strong?
I didn’t think so.
But back to my sisters and growing up in the 70s.
It was fun.
And what wasn’t fun, we were too young to pay any much mind. I remember waiting in the long gas lines and dad being furious. Not my problem.
I vaguely remember the whole Patty Hearst thing and just thinking she was weird.
But otherwise, we had things to do. Money was exceedingly tight. Fashions extremely poor. And our imaginations abundant.
Of course, we did the little girl things like performing plays and musicals.
But we also were incredibly progressive, turning our living room into a gym – inspiration a la Jack LaLanne! We would toss one another around (well, really Tracey and I would toss Tara around because she weighed as much as an apple core and was easy to bounce) or we’d improvise with socks, paper towel rolls and books.
Our Mac-Daddy-Cousin-Arnold-mother-of-all-weights was this enormous Webster’s Dictionary that I never recall using for its manufactured purpose. It did, however, double as a crushing leg lift for little girls aged six years and under. After a grueling workout (featuring rolled up pajama pants and tank tops to show off our muscles) we’d fuel up with Kool-Aid and Twinkies (this being the 70s and all) and get back to business.
Now, we were also different from many girls our age at the time because mom wouldn’t allow us to play with Barbie Dolls, which I deeply salute her for now, but didn’t much understand then. So we were outside a lot.
This was in the days before helicopter parents and bike helmets (read: Best. Days. Ever.)
This meant, like most of our friends, we could mostly be gone for hours on end (especially on weekends and during the summer) without parental interference. No texts. No tracking devices. No worries on either end. Bliss.
(Allow me to digress for one moment: There was always that one poor kid whose parents made them come in and go to bed at 7:00 on a summer night. You’d see the unlucky one staring longingly from the bedroom window, down where you were raising Cain until the street lights came on – the universal signal that the kid party was official shut down for the night. I always vowed I would NEVER be THAT parent. So when I did have my own kids I just moved to the woods where there were no other kids and no street lights and thus made my own rules. Problem solved.)
Back on track now, so my sisters and I had plenty of time to figure out how the world works.
One time, for example, we built a makeshift bike ramp out of some crappy plywood and a cinder block which Tara tackled holding a frozen popsicle in one hand, leaving the other on her handlebars. That ended with her head smashing into the street and a trip to the ER and stitches. But hey, she’s a big time executive today so it only hurt for a minute or two.
The thing with time is, it keeps on moving, and so as you might expect, the 70s flipped into the 80s, and my parents now had three teenaged girls and one endlessly ringing house phone. This was a combination our dad found toxic.
Now our mom is the patron saint of high strung, undisciplined, sometimes deranged, homeless pets, and growing up, our house was always filled with at least two or 10 of these creatures.
And for some reason we reliably propped a 20 pound bag of dog food directly under the kitchen wall phone – the one that never stopped ringing.
And so it came to be at our house that a sacred nightly dinner ritual was established whereby the house phone would ring, immediately followed by our dad’s cussing like the sailor he used to be, and then his snatching the receiver off the wall and hurling it into the open bag of dog food. (He’s got a great arm. There’s a reason we all love softball.)
Then like the champs we were, when dinner was over, the three of us, not missing a beat, would put on a Barry Manilow album, and singing at the top of our lungs, would clean up the kitchen, which included retrieving the phone from the bag of dog food, all the while dissolving into fits of laughter.
For those of an age, he is MacGyver – the dude who can fix anything. But dad is our picky MacGyver. He can fix your brakes and carburetor, and move onto your lawnmower and be done in a couple of hours, because that’s well, fun. But for years we used a butter knife to open the door to our laundry room because dad thought that job was a drag and unworthy of his mad skills.
He always tells us he didn’t miss anything having only daughters. We were all active in sports and for the most part we didn’t give him too much heartburn.
But occasionally we tried.
There was the time I drove our family car filled with my sisters and other assorted teenagers directly into a flooded street. To this day I don’t know why I just didn’t drive around or better yet – avoid – the flooded area. Once in the middle of the mess, the car stalled and water started flooding in. Panicked, I immediately order everyone to “Shut up and pray!”
Really, what else is there?
And this is the God’s honest truth – at that moment a man suddenly appeared holding a machete asking if he could help us. (That’s not what I had in mind, Lord.)
All I remember is telling Machete Man, “Absolutely not!”
I learned my lesson. Today I view even small puddles as major pitfalls to be avoided.
But of course, that is the lesson.
In life, no matter how carefully you drive you can’t avoid the pitfalls.
You can’t stop all the accidents or the illnesses. You can’t keep death from your door. The waters rise and the floods come.
But what you can do is celebrate life. Mark the milestones.
So I’m grateful that my “baby” sister is 50 and healthy, beautiful, and skinny as ever (well, Tracey and I have never loved that part of her, but whatever) with a thriving (and hilarious) family of her own.
I’m grateful that Tracey is likewise, and she’s accomplishing great goals and chasing bigger dreams alongside people she loves and who love her back.
I’m grateful that we still have our amazing parents, that God has given them some six decades together, and that they still manage to make their three girls – and now their five grandchildren – feel loved and protected.
And I’m grateful that after all these years, the laughs between us are still so dependable.