Sisters – Part 2
When I was fourteen, we were on a family vacation. This time I brought a friend. We were driving from Idaho through Utah and then over to California to see family. I was also hoping we would go to Disneyland even though my mom said it wasn’t likely. My parents allowed my friend, Kathy, and I to stay in our own hotel room. It had an adjoining door with my parents’ room. My sisters, Melissa and Lisa, were in another room across the hall. We all had dinner at Red Lobster, then went for a walk before heading back to the hotel. Kathy and I swam in the pool until it closed at nine. Afterward, we went to our room and watched television, talking until we fell asleep. Kathy and I felt so grown up in our own room.
At 7 a.m., the room’s phone rang. I answered. Lisa was on the other end. “Where are you? Dad is bringing the car around right now. We’re leaving.”
“What? I didn’t know we were leaving already.” I looked at Kathy who was staring at me.
“Yeah, we gotta go. Get dressed and get down here. I guess you don’t get breakfast.” She hung up before I could respond.
Kathy and I scrambled around the room, getting dressed and packing our bags. When we stepped out into the hall, my sisters were leaning against their door doubled over with laughter.
“You should see the look on your faces! You look so worried!” Lisa and Melissa gave each other high-fives and went back into their room.
My mom must have heard us because she came into the hall looking sleepy. “What is going on? What are you doing out here with your bags?”
I started to cry. Then cried harder from the embarrassment of crying in front of my friend. Later, my dad laughed at what my sisters did to me, and they didn’t even get in trouble as I usually did when I played pranks on them. The rest of the vacation was spent with my sisters trying to convince me they were sorry, while I plotted my revenge. Kathy was so upset over their joke that she asked to go home early, so I had plenty of time to think.
Back in my kitchen, putting dinner on the table for my family, I had to remind myself that my dad thought it was a great joke, and didn’t understand that they were being mean. But he also grew up with a mother who lit the kitchen trash on fire to make her husband think the house was burning. My dad grew up on a farm and learned to play just as hard as he worked. His parents were very strict with him and his siblings, while at the same time showing affection. I never understood why it was okay for my sisters to play practical jokes on me, but I couldn’t do similar things to them without getting yelled at.
Looking around the dinner table, I realized how different I raise my own children. I hoped I am a better parent and treated my children fairly.
I took a sip of water to wash down the bite of enchilada before saying, “I think I’m going to talk to Mom and Dad before I respond to Lisa’s text.”
“That’s a good idea. Your dad doesn’t talk much, but he has a lot of good insights about people.” Jake patted my hand, then stood to start clearing the table.
“I promised my mom I would bring her eggs this week, anyway,” I informed my husband. “Our hens are producing almost a dozen eggs a day!”
Jake groaned, knowing we would have omelets for breakfast soon. He would have to help cook since the one thing I can’t do in the kitchen is flip an omelet.
The next morning, after getting the children off to school, I headed to my parents’ house. I loved their house. They built it just a few years ago after Dad retired. It was white with blue trim and had a lovely picture window on the front. The new house is on the same site as the house my dad built when he was young and married to his first wife.
My sisters grew up in the old house. Sometimes I wished I had their memories of what it looked like. Melissa told me once that they used to use the pump house as a kind of hideout when they were in trouble. She told me about swimming the canal, back when it was used for irrigation before the county drained it to build more houses. It was those moments, when hearing stories of their childhood together, that I felt most like an outcast.
Not bothering to knock, I entered the house through the side door and called out, “hello? Are you in here?” Frequently Dad was in the shop turning wood on his lathe and Mom was in her library or downstairs in her craft room.
My mom came out of the library and smiled when saw me. “Hi, Ashley. I thought you were coming later.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you busy?” I handed her the eggs and followed her into the sunny kitchen.
“Not really. I was just organizing my desk.” Mom was perpetually organizing her desk.
“Where’s Dad?” The television wasn’t turned on, so I knew he had to be out of the house. When he was inside, he always had the news station going.
“Out in the shop. Do you need him?”
“Well, I wanted to talk to both of you.” Before I had finished my sentence, my mom was reaching for the intercom.
She told my dad to come in, then asked me if I wanted anything to eat. She always wanted to feed people; I got that from her. My dad came in, washed his hands, and then got some water before sitting down at the kitchen table.
“What’s going on?” he asked, sounding both curious and gruff at the same time.
I told them about the text message from Lisa, and naturally, all the old stories came up. My dad gave an embarrassed guffaw when we got to the part about cutting a switch.
“Now, babe,” Dad said defending himself, “you know how I was raised. I didn’t know any better back then. That’s how things were done when I was a kid. My mother would whip us kids if we back talked her, then turn around and make us cookies.”
“I know, Dad,” I felt my chest tighten and willed my voice to be steady. “But you didn’t even believe me.”
“I didn’t know that Melissa had issues with you and your mother becoming part of our family. She never said anything until after she got married.”
“Which time?” I sneered.
“That’s not nice,” Mom rebuked.
“She didn’t even listen to me when I told her Adam was a creeper!”
“We all thought you were just jealous that she was happy.” My dad stood up and grabbed a bag of chips off the counter.
“Okay, so again you didn’t believe me. And look how that turned out.”
Melissa had fallen in love with a handsome guy, and the wedding plans progressed quickly; it was only six months from the first date to nuptials. I was twelve and was asked to be a flower girl along with my cousin, Jenny, Lisa’s oldest daughter.
Upon meeting Adam, I immediately disliked him. Adam muzzled his dog just for barking and kicked it when it got excited with all the new people around. When I asked where the bathroom was in their new apartment, he whispered to me that I was stupid before patting me on the head and calling me, “sweetie.” I tried telling my parents that he was mean, but they told me to be quiet and not ruin Melissa’s wedding.
A few years later, Melissa called and said Adam had been arrested for stealing. We then discovered that he was an escaped convict and a skilled con-artist. Adam wasn’t even his real name. Melissa divorced him, but then remarried him when she found out she was pregnant. In the end, it didn’t work out for her.
My mom sighed. “We realize now that you have good instincts when it comes to people.”
“Huh,” my dad grunted. “Then what do you think you should do about Lisa’s text?”
I hated it when my dad made me work out the solution on my own.