Yesterday, I was presented with one of the most wonderful and uniquely poignant Birthday gifts I have ever received. The gift was special for several reasons. First of all, it wasn’t my Birthday. Secondly, it was a quirky sentimental gift that holds memories from what now seems like a lifetime ago. Thirdly, (is thirdly a word, it doesn’t sound correct)…anyway, thirdly, out of the 7 billion people roaming the planet there is only one other soul who understands the reason I spontaneously laughed and cried and laughed some more when I received the gift and that person is my sister, Kim. She is also the giver of the gift, the keeper of my secrets, and the sharer of my earliest memories.
I am sure by now the suspense is KILLING you! I received a vintage 1972 Mattel Tuff Stuff toy shopping cart in mint condition (original plastic food included)!!! I am not excited about receiving this gift because I am a collector of toys or have an affinity for miniature shopping carts. The wellspring of emotions is from a childhood shared by two little girls, who embarked on thousands of adventures together (without ever leaving the backyard) and literally put 288,000 miles on a 1972 Mattel Tuff Stuff toy shopping cart, while never once using it for pretend shopping!
Note: Please don’t be abashed by the title of this blog. Although my sister and I were actually once little Caucasian girls that is not context in which I am using the ‘White’ word. Our maiden name is White and thus my referral to being little White girls.
Perhaps the greatest thing about childhood is having someone you love completely in which to share it. In this instance, I am truly fortunate. But the truth is, I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, Kim’s birth was the first devastating thing to happen to me. Although I had nine months to prepare for the “Coming of Kim”, her arrival hit me hard and fast. You see, I had this really great gig as an only child. My mom had suffered several miscarriages and had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child. Not to brag or anything, but I was an answer to her prayers. Mom describes the first few years of my life as me being the center of her universe and what’s not to love about being the center of someone’s universe?? Oh, wait, I know, when someone comes along and shoves you into orbit!!! This, in my mind, was exactly what Kim did to me by being born!!!
Eventually, however, after all the fussing and cooing over the new baby died down and my two attempts at trying to get rid of her (only one resulted in an actual trip to the hospital and stitches to her lip) failed, I gradually accepted the fact that I was going have to learn to live with her. Once she grew out of the adorable infant stage and was actual kid-size, things started to turn around. She wasn’t perfect, but I think I have established that was pretty much a two-way street. So, to be fair, here are some things that made me a not-so-perfect sister growing up:
I was mean and I cheated at every game we played.
I cut the pigtails off of her doll
I tricked her into doing my chores, regularly.
I used my high-octane imagination to terrorize her (i.e. the light from the smoke detector was actually an eye that watched everything she did and the hip-waders in our parents’ closet contained a ghost
I made her pee in a trashcan and then told on her
When playing hide-and-seek, I wouldn’t look for her and she would stay hidden FOREVER
I burnt her nose with a yellow Starburst that I had melted in the microwave
To clarify, Kim had some quirks as well:
She didn’t talk until she was full into toddler-hood and then when she did start talking, there wasn’t a human alive who could understand her gibberish
Her innate gullibility made her exceptionally pliable
Regardless of how much I insisted and offered descriptions, she was never ever able to see my imaginary friend, Jody.
She killed my fish when I was at camp claiming “they were cold so I put hot water in their bowl and they all turned upside down”.
Differences and squabbles aside, the endless hours of escapades as playmates are the summation of nearly every happy childhood memory I had buried like a time capsule in my heart. The shopping cart opened the door to the memory of our yesterdays and like a string of dominos tipping one into the next, came the stories of two little girls wiling away days brimming with imagination. The orange handle of the shopping cart was quickly discarded and we used a crushed velvet 70s green pillow in the cart, so we could ride in comfort. And ride we did. The shopping cart was used as a horse drawn carriage for when we were the Ingalls family and needed to go to the Olson’s Mercantile for some sugar or yard goods. It was a school bus for taking and dropping off each other when we played school. It also served as a get-a-way car, a race car, a crop harvester, an ambulance, a cage for our cat, and also the actual way E.T. was able to get home.
We may have only been little White girls, but we accomplished BIG things. We turned a full-size canopy bed into an ocean fishing vessel and successfully fended off Orca the Killer Whale. We won consecutive gold medals in the driveway and the kitchen for ice skating, while wearing our matching tennis shoe roller-skates. Each of us pulled through several anthrax outbreaks, without any help from Doc Baker (we had many Little House on the Prairie inspired adventures). We rode bikes, ran barefoot, played stickball and made a clubhouse out of anything we could find. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t tackle together. We were legends in our own minds.
The fun I had sharing a childhood with my sister is by far one of the gems in my life, but it pales in comparison to the bond we forged during the not-so-fun times. When we lost a pet or a loved one or one of us got our butt beat (usually me) there wasn’t another person capable of providing the other comfort except I for her and she for me. Probably the most difficult time was when our parents divorced and our world shifted. Everything familiar and comfortable and safe was skewed. Everything ,that is, except for one common denominator…I was still hers and she was still mine and whatever we faced during that time we faced it together.
Thank you, Kim, for this exceptional gift. Thank you for knowing my fears, short-comings, quirks and glitches and loving me anyway. Thank you for helping me to slay giant killer whales and nursing me through the fevers of anthrax. Thank you for supporting my dreams, drying my tears and letting me wear your underpants during emergencies. I am blessed to have shared a childhood with someone so remarkable (and resilient). We can never return to the time of innocence where we were content in being just little White girls, but as the seasons of our life continue to change, you are and forever will be, my sister.