Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sister Reunion

I’ve shared all my Thirds with two sisters. One I shared a bedroom with; one I’ve shared regular road trips with. We’ve shared parents, homes, life stages, reunions, vacations, special events. We’ve shared secrets, memories, resentments, helpless laughter, sadness, and tears.

And now, we were going to share a car for ten days on the road.

During one family reunion in which – how does this happen?!? – all of us seemed to assume our old, tired, family roles; my sister Allison remarked, “We haven’t really grown up; we’ve just moved away.”

And now, we were going to share a car for ten days on the road.

I was a little anxious.

At one point, Allison said, “Elizabeth will drive, I’ll navigate, and Barbara will tell us what to do.”

Uh, oh. Uh, oh.

We met in Seattle. Elizabeth used her phone to navigate the rental car to the hotel to meet Allison and me. The phone lady told her to take Aloha Street. “Ollo hah,” not “ah-loh-hah.” We found this hilarious. What was even more hilarious was how many other words could be mispronounced like that. We mispronounced our way around Washington.

Until we got to a gift shop in Port Townsend. I think the item on the table had the word kahuna in it. “Kah-hoo-nah.” Doubled over in out of control hilarity, I raced to the restroom.

Because there is no one else in the world who leaves me helpless with pee-your-pants laughter like my sisters. No matter where we are, something eventually puts us totally over the top and we HURT with side-aching, bladder-weakening laughter.

And because we all grew up at suppers with my father, who quizzed us on the presidents and state capitals on the milk bottle caps, we got to spend a hilarious ride trying to come up with the four states whose capitals were named for presidents. (We did it!)

Many years ago, when Allison and I would drive cross-country to college, she insisted we had to stop for meals three times a day. I said, “We’re just sitting in a car. How do you get hungry just sitting?” But she said she could feel brain damage setting in if she didn’t eat regularly. That’s become a replaying family joke.

I eat breakfast – very happy if the hotel has make-your-own waffles – and then food doesn’t really occur to me until dinner. My sisters require “snacks.” For Allison, “snacks” is an art form: it includes supplies of chocolates, fruit, cheese, crackers, candies, beverages. She carries little plastic containers to hold all her snacks and a bag to hold all her containers. At one point, Elizabeth and I turned around to see Allison carrying her bag of snacks as if she was terrified we might deny her food when she needed it.

Another pee-your-pants laughter interlude.

My sisters have compact, convenient wheelie luggage. I have a duffel bag, which they didn’t like. They thought it was unwieldy, they told me I could at least get a duffel with wheels. I thought its shapelessness meant it could fit in places, but at our last stop, I decided I’d put it on the hotel luggage cart when we went to our room. I put it crossways on the cart, which had a stiff wheel, and tried to negotiate it into the elevator. I managed that, but getting out of the elevator proved problematic. The wheels of the cart only turned in the direction the duffel couldn’t fit. Trapped!

Another pee-your-pants laughter interlude. With consequences.

I don’t take any issue with their stopping for snacks because they let me stop at restrooms whenever I need to.

We hiked many beautiful trails in Olympic National Park, browsed a craft fair in Port Townsend, rode ferries and a monorail, went to the Kitsap County Fair, examined amazing quilts up close, saw an outdoor play. We also had our tiffs over snoring, interrupting, planning, expectations, and paying attention. We had tears, irritation, and resentments.

But what I remember – what I hold dear and mentally revisit over and over again – is all that helpless laughter. The universe was kind enough to give me sisters.


  1. Good fun. But I only had brothers and it's a very different world, I'm afraid.

    Your stories usually let me inside with a connection; this story left me outside. I feel as if it's one of those stories when I'm not supposed to be in the room for the telling.

    Kinda like when you, me, anyone spends time checking a book out before buying; you ask yourself, "Would I want to spend hours with this story in my head?" I don't think I'd survive the car trip. I couldn't take all the laughter!

    I'll try to understand. I'll make it my own little effort at multi-expressionalism.

    1. I struggled with writing this, wondering if it's all a "I guess you had to be there" kind of story. And I didn't want to focus on the perils of 3 (i.e., one feeling left out) because that isn't the story I want to hold onto. Besides, do brothers even laugh till they have to go to the bathroom?

  2. Decided to see if you were still up... In answer to your query: No, and that's even after they were laughing about and making fart noises!

  3. Love this... wish my sister was like your sisters. I'll just have to enjoy my adopted sisters/friends. I love your experiences.

  4. And I love this, too. I wish I’d had any siblings. You lucky women!

    1. Thank you, but this does give rise to one of my sadnesses (or, life glitches) that I wasn't able to provide siblings for my daughter. Yes, we're lucky.

  5. I do have a brother, and he's very special to me, but it's such a different relationship. I have always wished I had one or two sisters. Sometimes I meet women who don't like their sisters and I tell myself it's okay that I don't have sisters, what if I had sisters I didn't get along with?

    Just this summer I reconnected with a cousin I haven't seen or communicated with in 50+ years. I asked her how (and where) her sister was. She told me she had "lost track" of her sister. How does that happen? I quickly changed the subject, but thought about the sisters I don't have.

    Stories like yours remind me how special it can be to have sisters. How wonderful that you still get together and enjoy each other's company.

  6. What a joyous column. Thank you for sharing the joy


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