Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy birthday, Carleton

I think we all know that my name isn't really Irma. And surprisingly enough, I am not in love with a guy whose driver's license reads "Husbandly One", although that would be very cool. I keep up my thin veil of secrecy because it feels right to me, but I am not obsessive about it. Tonight's post is about my brother, and seeing how I am going to link to his web page at the end, I may as well call him by his rightful name.

Happy birthday, Carleton.

Not in a thousand years could I ever explain the ways I love you. We are only one year and thirteen days apart, so we were always together as children, we got to really HAVE each other in a way our much younger sister missed out on. We have a history between us that needs no explanations, no back story, no discussion.

I remember going to kindergarten with you when I was four and you were three in the Baptist church up the street, the way Mummy used to stand on the corner at 11:30 waiting for us to emerge, and how thrilled she was to see us.

I remember how angry --well, let's not mince words, how unbelievably fucking pissed off you were when I went to grade one the next year, and you had to go to kindergarten without me.

I remember all the nights we begged our parents to let us sleep in the same room. (they wisely usually did.)

I remember one afternoon a year later, when you were going over to Dale's house to play with Dale and Peter. You wanted me to go too, so I did, and the other two boys loudly announced they wouldn't play with a girl and I had to leave. I remember you got in trouble back home for punching Dale in the face....but you didn't get in too much trouble.

Even earlier, out of context, I remember the only time Mummy every spanked either one of us: you were two, and you took off across the frozen pond in early winter near our house in Birch Grove, across ice that was paper thin. Mummy didn't dare step foot on the ice, knowing she would fall through with the very first step, so she kept calling to you in her sweetest voice. You kept giggling and running further out... I can only imagine what terror lived in her heart. Finally her sweet sing-song lured you in, and as soon as you were within arm's length, she turned you over on her knee, your face inches from the snow, and sobbed as she let her worst fear out with each raise of her hand. (You never went out on the pond again, by the way.You may have needed to learn things the hard way, but at least you learned.)

I remember our confusion, but particularly your confusion, when our parents split up. I remember all the times we just looked at each other, each of us unsure what was now expected of us at any moment or in any situation. I remember we had wonderful parents and then wonderful step parents who loved us, and who we loved in return.... but only I can remember that it was the two of us clinging to each other; everything else might change, but we never would.

Fast forward. I remember when we both thought we were grown ups (ha!) in our twenties, I remember you flying from Toronto to come visit me in the Rockies. I remember being so proud that I could pick you up at the airport in a car I had bought all by myself. I remember you asking me to pull off the highway, so you could get out of the car and really LOOK. You were blown away, you just needed to stop and take it all in. "Look how beautiful it is", you said with wonder.

I had lived there for several years, had ceased to see the beauty of what I took for granted. But through your eyes, I really saw the mountains for the first time in years. Thank you for that.

Fast forward. I remember the day after Mummy died in January 2006, going through her closet to pick her last outfit. I remember you taking a pair of her tiny embroidered jeans and folding them carefully. "I want these."

I remember you playing and singing at her funeral, a song that you had written with her in mind, and how your song ended on such a jarring, unfinished note, with the words, "She's listening."

I remember calling you three months later at one in the morning, to tell you that Daddy had died. And I will never, ever forget how you sighed, how the first words out of you mouth were, "How did I know."

Fast forward. I remember standing in the lobby at Toronto's city hall on your wedding day, you were inside filling out the necessary paperwork, when your beautiful bride arrived late. I had never met her, but the white dress kind of gave her away. "Ai", I said gently,"Carleton needs you to do the paperwork." She left without even saying a word to me, intent on reaching you and the formalities, but I already knew this stranger was my sister.

Fast forward. We don't talk as often as we once did, but that is because of mismatched schedules and obligations, not because of a lack of love. We have grown apart geographically, but every time I talk to you, we are once more two little kids, curled up in the same bed, hoping we are whispering quietly enough that Mummy and Daddy won't burst in to the room and separate us so we'll go to sleep.

Happy birthday, Carleton.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Wow, that gave me goosebumps. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute.