What Did You Do with Your Sister?

These are my best friends: Jack, Seth, Ivy, Jenni, and Shannon.  And this is one of their best performances–the Southwest Christian Church’s Christmas Pageant of 1979. They did an excellent job, once they understood what to do.  But the first day of practice we almost had a meltdown.  The teacher was coaching all the kids on where to stand on the risers, how to stand up straight and sing out, and so on.  She had to stop frequently to call down one or another who misbehaved, frowning and calling them by name.  I didn’t know most of the kids, but was watching the rehearsal with my fingers crossed–it was our first group effort and one of mine was terminally shy.

As Miss Jo corrected the miscreant one more time using that voice your Mom uses when she includes your middle name, I saw Shannon’s eyes well up and that big beautiful lower lip begin to tremble.  I didn’t understand what her problem was but her distress grew until she reached out for me with both arms.  I ran up to the stage and help out my arms, enfolding her and asking her what was wrong?  She almost burst into tears as she cried, “Why does Miss Jo keep yelling at me?”

I didn’t realize that one of the 12-year old boys cutting up on the top row of the bleachers was named Shannon also.  When I explained it to her, she said, “How did I get a BOY’S NAME???” about as irate as I had ever seen her.  Once we had that little problem explained away, the play went off without a hitch.

We weren’t always 5, you know.  One of the funniest days I can remember is when they were only 3–three kids, that is.  Jack, the oldest, was almost 3 years old, and his cohorts in crime, the twins Ivy and Seth (to the right of Jack in the photo) were 2.

They shared one bedroom, the twins in their little portacribs, Jack in a “big boys’ twin bed.  I had to keep on my toes as I picked my way through the toys strewn all over the little house we shared, as they had the run of the whole place.  One minute they were banging on all my best pots with spoons, marching in the band; next they were crawling along behind the sofa and recliner, one sock hanging out of the back waist of their pajama pants and the other held between their teeth.  Elephants on parade.  I was tickled at their antics as I put away laundry, picked up toys, stacked books back on the shelf.  Then I noticed that it had grown quiet.  I peeked around the corner and saw both boys, sitting quietly side by side and putting together lego’s to make a fort to protect their dinosaurs.

“Where’s Ivy, guys?” I asked.  They both shrugged and kept on building.  “Come on, where did she go?  Is she under the bed?” I asked as I looked around, behind the Fisher Price kitchen, beneath a stack of blankets—the giant’s mountain, I believe.    Seth looked at Jack.  Jack looked at Seth. They grinned in the funniest way.  I was starting to get worried, and ran through the house, calling Ivy’s name.  She didn’t answer.  Not in the bathroom.  Not in my room, not in the kitchen.  Okay, this wasn’t funny anymore.  I ran back into their bedroom, using my best ‘mama’s angry’ voice.  “Where is she?  Tell me right now.


Seth struggled to his feet, looked up at me smiling and walked over to the bottom drawer of the chest.

“Here,” he said as he led me over to the old maple chest where we kept their clothes.  He tugged on the bottom drawer but couldn’t budge it.  Thinking he had gotten a larger toy stuck in the way, I reached down to help him get the drawer open and found a quiet little mouse of a strawberry blonde, smiling up at me, not making a sound. She was curled up, fetal position on her side, althouogh she fit pretty well into the space. My heart stopped, eyes welling up, that mad-and-glad feeling you get.

“What are you doing?” I cried, lifting her out of the drawer, practically squeezing the life out of her, the relief a bit shaky in my voice.

“I’m a doll. Santa put me away till Christmas!”

And they wonder why we go gray.

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