When opportunity presented itself, say … after a hard rain that brought fat, pink earthworms to the topsoil and road surfaces to drown, I’d pick up a limp specimen (using a stick, of course) and chase my sister around the yard. Snake! Ssssssssssssnake! I’d wiggle it to make it look alive and yell SNAKE! This teasing would terrify Susan (perfect name, huh – Ssssssusan) and gave her yet another example of the spontaneous cruelty her beloved older sister could mete out without provocation.
For years my poor sister endured this, and other worse (I’ll admit it) treatment with a forgiving heart. Her only respite came when I would tire of taunting her and move on to more evil escapades that brought out even shriller high -decibel shrieks. Susan was a regular scream machine and my imagination knew no limits – well, death was a possibility but, as in the cartoons that I loved so much, that were truly my inspiration in life, well, the protagonist always got up again. I would not accept surrender, tears made me work harder, and only an act of God could spare my sister’s fate (God and my mother were the only ones that saved Susan from total obliteration!). Susan always came back for more. I thought Susan was the best sister in the whole world.
When Susan became a member of a pentecostal church years back, she wrote a l-o-n-g letter that forgave me all of her childhood torture and coached misdeeds. She had mailed the letter to me to make it more valid – I guess it was more official to put a stamp on it and have it canceled by the post office. I can truly say that at first I was nonplussed by the list; to see everything recorded in stark black and white was sobering. I didn’t even remember many of my sister’s trials and ordeals – but they obviously made a nasty imprint on her psyche. After reading the letter twice I had to give my sister credit for living through her childhood. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I accepted her forgiveness; I had it coming. And then I turned it around and forgave her for being so innocent, so down right self-righteous, and too darn fair minded. I don’t really think that is what she had intended …
Even as I reflect back on our childhood I don’t feel a twinge of guilt; I don’t feel I overstepped my sisterly boundaries one bit. On the contrary, I feel that my sister boot camp helped Susan handle what was thrown at her later in life. Our bond was cemented by birth order and never cracked under sibling strain, parental threat/punishment/consequences or living 3 hours away.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.