Friday, December 31, 2010

this is not goodbye; or, three memories, two of which appropriately enough (for us) take place in a car

My dear sister,

I want to tell you about three memories I have.

The first is from when our parents were still together, because they were both in the front seats of the car. You and I were in the back – you were in your car seat, and you were new, because I was torn between watching this thing squirming beside me and watching out the window, looking for the red tipped hat of the gnome who lived outside our car (I’ll explain the gnome-world another time). There you were, squirming and squinching and quite probably getting ready to start screaming again. I wasn’t really sure what to make of you, but there you were. The baby. Our baby, as I’d been told. And I wasn’t really considering what all this would mean – I was just watching you flail around a little bit – until you did something that explained it all to me. I reached out to touch you and you grabbed my finger. You wrapped your whole hand around my pointer finger and you held on, with warmth and softness and yes, strength. And it was then that I finally realized, without searching for it, “Oh – this baby changes everything.”

The second memory is also in a car, but this time our parents are divorced because Mama isn’t there. Dad is driving, and I am in the front seat next to him, and you are once again in your car seat in the back. You are little, because you still need a special seat and you still flail around a lot, but you are older too, because now your flails have a lot more kick to them. We are driving to Syracuse, I think, to spend Christmas with Dad’s sister. Dad and I are talking – about the ice on the trees, the cars on the road, maybe the meaning of Christmas or the legend of Santa Claus (I don’t remember when I knew it wasn’t real, but you know I don’t consider that to be synonymous with ceasing to believe). You started screaming. Well, maybe just fussing, but to my untrained four year-old ears, it all fell under the category of things-the-baby-does-that-I’m-not-allowed-to-do. Dad said you wanted your bottle. It was in the back next to you, but you couldn’t reach it. Dad looked around and said I should climb in the back to give it to you. I took the opportunity to point out the obvious flaw in this plan: with my seatbelt on it was physically impossible to climb into the back seat. Dad said I should take my seatbelt off. I stared at him. He was serious. Blinking with incredulous bewilderment, I broke all the rules of driving, unbuckled my seatbelt, climbed into the back so I could give you your bottle, and realized, “Well – the divorce changes everything.”

The last memory is much farther along in our lives. I had just gotten back from my college year abroad in France and, in the midst of dealing with much culture shock and a recent heartbreak, was at Shore St with you and the family. I had never lived so far away, for so long a time, with so little contact. True, you and I had grown up traveling from one family to the other and then back again, sometimes concurrently and sometimes like ships in the night. But this was different – this was a time spent away in a world whose only strings tying it to my previous life where those I could consciously make on my own. This was before gchat and Skype, remember, and when cell phones were carried in case of emergency and otherwise ignored. You had been to visit, once (with a recovering case of mono, you trouper) and so had some of the parentals and familial others. Still, in France I had known a new sense of individual separation that caused me to grow, and to learn, and to realize things about myself and the world and myself in the world and I was all the more shocked to discover that some aspects of this isolation, for better or for worse, had come home with me to New England. I was surrounded by the family I knew and loved but had no idea of how to fit back in. We were in the kitchen – there was some kind of chaos going on – and I thought, “Well, finally. This is where I fit in: I know how to do this, to solve these problems in this way.” And while I was thinking this, you picked up the phone, called the appropriate people, and re-set the gears moving in their own clunky-but-greased kind of way. And so I realized, “Well – everything has changed, once again.”

I give you these memories not to wax nostalgic on the eve of my departure nor to transfer any amount of responsibility, burden, or sense of necessity onto your shoulders. I simply wanted to tell you that everything will be alright. First, we are joined as sisters in a way that no distance, no time, and no boys can undo. (Sorry boys, but it’s true.) Second, while it is true that for every bond that is made in this world another is broken, this is not to suggest that the things that end can cause nothing but hardship. Sometimes we learn from them. Sometimes it is the only way things can get better. (Sometimes it means we get to break some well-established safety rules.) And sometimes the things that fall apart end up drawing us closer together.

Finally, thirdly, with as much support as I’ve given you over the years and as much as I’d like to take credit for all the good aspects of your development into a unique, creative, caring, wonderful human being (I’ll leave the blame for all the other aspects to someone else, because this is our blog and I can do that here), I know that you will always be ok without me. I know this because sometimes you have shouted it with your actions, and sometimes you have whispered it with your eyes. I know this because you have, somewhat stubbornly and at times defiantly, always insisted on forging your own path. I know this because you have nonetheless always had the strength, the persistence, and the love to make sure that this path, your own path, was nevertheless never too disconnected from mine.

I am going far away. For a while now our shared memories will have to be built over the phone, over this blog, over Skype. All this new-fangled technology we never had as kids, growing up in separate households, catching glimpses of each other on the weekends, sharing secrets and stories and advice and putting our two separate worlds together to try and re-achieve that one, elusive, coherent whole. I am going now to explore a little bit more of the world, to build more of my own separate sphere, but always, and forever, to share it with you.

your more-afraid-of-flying-than-of-bears sister

Thursday, December 30, 2010

one of these pairs is not like the others

Dear sister,

your packing-now-because-i-accidentally-took-a-two-hour-nap-after-you-left-this-morning sister

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dear sister,
Getting ready for the Nutcracker this weekend has me thinking about the details. There are so many components of the holiday season that I love: music, candles, nature, warmth, food, decoration and crafts, fires (in fireplaces, of course), sweets, family …

Part of why I’ve always loved the Nutcracker is that it encapsulates so many of these elements at their prime: the lavish decorations and elegant costumes of the Act 1 party scene contrasted with the evocation of natural beauty in the Act 1 snow finale, the warmth, excitement, and colors of the candy divertissements in Act 2, and of course, that ever-present, ever-recognizable music throughout. Putting on a production of Nutcracker, like putting on another classic like Christmas Carol, is an excuse to go to the most pithy of Christmas elements, to draw on the most explicit of the symbols and ideas, to attempt to produce in the audience’s eyes, ears, and hearts the epitome of the Christmas spirit.

And with all that said, another main reason I like Nutcracker so much is because the Act 2 dances encourage my OCD tendencies with a celebration of all the things I hold dear (music, color, dancing, candy) neatly packaged into short, labeled, color-coded packages. Chocolate = Spanish = trumpet solo = red and black tutu. Coffee = Arabian = heavy on the sultry clarinet = deep, jeweled blues and greens. Tea = Chinese = flute trills and quickly plucked violin strings = bright yellow and pink. And so on.

It’s always bothered me slightly that things start to break down after those first three … Marzipan has no associated ethnicity ... Waltz of the Flowers has nothing to do with food … and what drink or candy is Russian supposed to represent, anyway? (Vodka?) And obviously, this is all begging for problematic “ethnic interpretations” by a corps of white, European ballet dancers.

But it’s Christmas, so we overlook the painted mustaches of the Chinese dancers and the see-through Arabian harem pants, and focus instead of how these details come together to paint an overall picture for us, one of imagination and mystery and adventure and, yes, a safe return to the warmth and open arms of home.

Finding myself immersed in all these details has been hard for me this Christmas. I’m spending just as much time sitting by the fireside knitting as I am in the basement, sorting and packing and stowing away. It’s hard to take pleasure in the little delights of the holidays when the big picture to which they add up is at best blurry and out-of-focus. (When I’m having a bad day, it feels more like someone sponge-painted over it with splotches of dark gray – or at worst, erased all together.) There is a bigger picture there, of this I am sure, but right now all I can see is the disparate, disassociated elements.

I can take some solace in lists and labels – what to pack and what to store, what to mail and what to give away. (I have another box for you to look through, by the way. I think some of it might already be yours, actually … I was just babysitting it for you for a while.)

But eventually, I have to leave the basement for the kitchen and the living room and the rehearsal studio – where things are a little more messy and often a lot more unfocused. That’s where the music and the laughter is, the chocolate and the candles, the Christmas tree and the latkes and the knitting and the firesides. And even if the bigger picture seems out of reach right now, I try to have hope in the direction that these little details point me: towards imagination and mystery and adventure and, yes, a happy return to the open arms of family and home.

your can’t-wait-to-see-you-next-week-and-oh-yeah-I-think-that's-your-blue-shirt-in-my-closet sister

Sunday, December 12, 2010

things that are gross -- this week

Dear sister,

Um, hot yoga, wow. I thought moving to you-know-where would earn me plenty of crazy points, but ... I think with hot yoga you've taken the crazy cake for the year. So, congrats on that! (And ps - I don't care how hot they are, you're not allowed to date anyone you meet in hot yoga. I mean, they take hot yoga, for heaven's sake ... they must be crazy.)

Unrelatedly, here's a little glimpse into my life. I call it "things that are gross this week."

1. a broken phone

2. packing all my stuff away ... again.

3. a grated finger. You know how we're both afraid of subway turnstiles doing that egg-cutting thing on us? Well, maybe you've always been afraid of accidentally grating your fingertips when you're supposed to be grating carrots, cheese, or, say, potatoes for latkes. You can't really tell from this picture, but GUESS WHAT I DID LAST WEEK.

your better-post-to-come-soon sister

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holy hotness batman!

Dear Sister,

Okay, so I’ve sort of failed at my revised list of priorities. To be honest, my revised revised list of priorities has basically been this, lately: Work. Sleep. Sit on my couch and zone out for a few minutes.

But, the good news, for you, is that I have only a week left in my internship. Which means, well, I’ll have a little more time to write to you. It also means I need to figure out what to do with my life this spring (and just in general) but that’s a whole other can of worms I’m not about to open right here.

Do you remember last year, when I conceded that running the Road Race may, in fact, solidify my position as the “crazy” one? Well, I think this whole moving-to-the-north-pole thing you’ve got going is definitely giving me a run for my money, but I may have one-uped you. Two words: hot yoga.

Yes, you read it right. Me, the girl who hates excessive heat, wears tank tops year round, and was the reason for the at-least-50-degrees-or-no-shorts rule. I’ve been voluntarily subjecting myself to 90 minutes in 90-something degree heat. And not just sitting there in, exercising in it. And here’s the thing: 90 degrees is HOT and 90 minutes IS A LONG TIME. Seriously, the guys (who are more flexible than me, which is depressing for me) look like they are in the shower. Not like they just got out of the shower, like they are currently in the shower. And for the first 45 minutes, I stand there thinking “What the hell have I gotten myself into?!” I'm pretty sure it would be an exceptionally effective use of torture, but supposedly it has health benefits, so maybe the CIA should look into using it. You know, get some valuable national security information and improve the health of alleged terrorists. I'm just saying...maybe it would make them appreciative.

Oh, because, that’s the other thing—you can’t leave! You’re stuck in the heat for the whole hour and a half! One girl was scurrying toward the door, and the instructor told her (in a super friendly, nice way, that makes it impossible to disobey) to go back to her mat and just sit down, and breathe, and have some water. Plus, half the people there have rockin’ bodies, which is sort of inspiration to not leave. Because in my mind, if I do the same hot yoga they do, then I will end up equally as hot (pun intended). The last 30 minutes are on the mat, lying down postures, which is when I’m think “ahhh, yes, this is excellent.” It’s still intense, and my heart still races, but it’s the part that convinces me to come back again. Which, I’m sure, is all part of their evil plan.

So anyway, I was thinking, if they have this in Alaska, you should check it out. Because it is a nice break from the cold, which I’m sure you’ll appreciate.

your off-the-deep-end sister