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©May 2009

Carol Jane Remsburg


Sister Reunion Revelation




Cooking in Betsy's kitchen...Mandy, Melly, Betsy, and even Erin...

Today wasn’t just a reunion of sisters after nearly nineteen years, it was a revelation into the past, a reaffirmation of our loving bond throughout the decades of separation, and it was bringing an errant child to her home, to her family. 


Mom and Dad have been gone twenty years, both, give or take a few months, and if I’m pushing it, nearly twenty one years for Dad.  Even though each of us, the three daughters, Melly, Betsy, and me, Jane, were adults when our parents passed on, none of us were ready or able to accept their loss and move on.  Our family was very tightly knit, everything revolved around our family, our parents, our siblings, their spouses, our kids, all of it.  With the sudden frequency of deaths, Melly’s hubby, Jimmy, at a young age, at 36, when Mandy was only 8 months old, then Daddy, then our paternal grandmother, then our maternal grandmother, and our mother, all within a few short months, and with Melly and little Mandy over a thousand miles away, the three sisters went into a freewheeling sort of mini-madness.  We closed ranks, even against ourselves. 


What normally bonds siblings together drove us apart.  As isolated as we were, each of us separated.  While one set of sisters, Betsy and Jane, lived closely, there was a divide even between them, the children kept close, but the sisters began to move apart, slowly and quietly.  We focused on our daily activities, work, chores, and made much of them, keeping busy kept the pain away from our broken lives.  Each sister felt the pain, the separation, and the guilt that always comes with a loss. 


I know that other families pull together and become even closer after the loss of a parent or both, but what used to be such a tight family suddenly had no gravitational pull at all, we were freewheeling and pretty damned scared.  One wouldn’t tell the other, and suddenly we were suspicious of the other two, didn’t matter which one of us, pick Melly or Betsy or me.  What we worked hardest on was making a home, a haven, a safe place without the hurt of another loss.  Each of us had suffered the loss of losing both Jim and then Marion, our mother and father, it was tantamount to the sun imploding, and the rest of the world kept moving onward, forward, and none of us could initially understand why the rest of the world didn’t stop and take notice, we were devastated.


Each of us tried, in our own way to cope.  Melly focused on her work, her safety net, raising her daughter to become more than she thought she could but is so incredible, I had little doubt (and she did a fantastic job).  Betsy also focused on family, her daughters, the home place, doing all she could to make life fun because she knew life was so short.  Me, Jane, well, I just stuck my head in the sand, just like an ostrich, I went through my days going to work, coming home, scared of my own shadow, scared that something worse might come down the pike.  If anything nasty threatened, I pulled back even further…just how far can you pull down into a hole?  Let me tell you, you can go a very LONG way if you try hard enough. 


Later there was another funeral, Betsy’s little daughter, Lizzy, drowned in a terribly tragedy, Melly and little Mandy came up.  I was enormously pregnant with Erin then.  It was a horrible time, more pain, even more separation even though we were together.  I began to dig my hole of isolation in earnest, the farther down I went, the colder it went, and the colder it got, it was a different kind of pain, an easier one to deal with. 


Years passed, I did visit ONCE  to Florida, to Melly and Mandy, some seven or eight years back, and little “Erin” who wasn’t so little last year, went to visit Melly last year, both visits Melly paid for.  There were letters, emails, phone calls, but still, we were separate.  The bond had faded and time was pushing us apart.  I knew it, but was still shamed and it was painful. 


Don, hubby, had begun a litany of, “you and Betsy really need to go to Florida to see Melody.”  I put him off, told him we couldn’t afford it, told him anything to make him hush.  I was older now, heavier now, had a ton of vices Melly would frown at me for, I was NOT acceptable to my brilliant, more cosmopolitan sister, and would not shame myself that way to her.


Betsy, I think felt the same way, not that she was ‘heavy’—ok, read FAT, like me, but time has a way of making you frightened to expose what you are now as to what you used to be in another’s memory.  I used to be pretty, young, svelte and curvy—okay, cut the boobs, but not, bad.  Now, I’m old, fat, I have a potty mouth, love my beer and my smokes…this is SO everything my sister should hate about me.  So I hide.


About a month ago, the ‘announcement’ came, via Melly’s daughter, my niece Mandy, to MY daughter, Erin, “Mom! They’re COMING TO VISIT!”


What should have been instant joy, which was for Betsy when she heard the news, was “OH SHIT—NO!” fear from me.  OMG!  Melly can’t see me looking like this!  She knows I’m heavy, she’ll hate me.  I’m everything she despises.  I live in Podunk-Ville; redneck heaven, my house is devolving before my eyes, it’s a mess, hubby is sick, the house will NEVER be a show place and she’s used to the best of the best, oh, the SHAME!”


Yep, that was my reaction.  FEAR.  Afraid of my own SISTER?  Yes I was, right up until they rolled in on Tuesday night and we met them at their hotel.


Suddenly the years melted away.  Melly wasn’t just the posh mover and shaker, “Miss Corporate” that I couldn’t compete with, couldn’t measure up to..she was just “Melly.”


Then there was “Mandy,” my little one, the one who is so MY kid, just like all MY kids, Betsy’s kids, Jamie and Sammi, and my own Erin.  Mandy IS my kid, so complex, moody, funny, blinding brilliant but has NO CLUE she is and beautiful to boot, she can hold the world on a string if that’s her desire; she has just that much power and engaging charisma.  Damn, kids are stupid.  She only needs about 46 swift kicks in her butt to get that CLUE that she really is a phenom.


All this lead up, nobody else will read this but maybe family.


What happened today?  Well, after the little sort of meet and greet on Tuesday night, a little visit yesterday, today was the BIG day, we took a short day trip and WENT HOME. 


Along the way, we stopped at the cemetery where our parents were put to rest along with Mandy’s father, Jimmy.  It was an emotional time for all, but mostly for Mandy.  We bought ONE tall-boy beer, something both our parents and Jimmy would have appreciated, one sip from each, then we poured the rest around the markers, then Mandy crushed the can, and set it in a depression, hope it stays there for a while.  Then it was time to move forward and backward, where we needed to go.


Home?  Where’s HOME?  Home is Saint Michaels, always has, always will be.  It’s where we are from, all the sights, smells, the water, and the earth; we know it when we are there.  It calls to us like a siren song.


From the yews that surround the Episcopal Christ Church we attended from birth, where Mom played the organ for twenty years and we play, the strongly scented yews that surround the church are all a succor to our soul.  We walked through the town over the brick cobblestones showing Mandy this house, that house, through the church, our great grandmother’s home, now a B&B we were gifted with a tour through by the owner.  Then there was Aunt Lizzy’s house, now for rent, Grandmom’s house in town, the museum, the reminiscing of the day the CrabClaw opened, then down to see our other grandmother’s house, that someone is finally renovating to make nice—all of it.


What it came down to was watching both my sisters.  Melly took us to lunch at the very landmark of the town, The CrabClaw, the one we remember, not to any of the more posh eateries that have sprung up, but HOME.  Melly even found the owner, Sylvia, who well remembered our family, we encountered that a few times during our tour of “home” with the older folks, so GLAD to meet “home folk” rather than the new folk, people who have roots there, who love our place, what it was rather than what it is now.


We even sneaked down the lane to the old yacht club, which now seems a bit snooty, but got out of the car and we all ran to the water kicking our shoes off and stepped into the Miles, being very mindful of the sea nettles/jelly fish which were looking mighty eager to sting.  We picked up a few shells and grabbed a couple of pieces of driftwood before making our escape and before anyone could question who we were and why we were intruding there. 


You could term the day trip as bittersweet, but I wouldn’t.  While the saying is you can’t go home again, I think this time we actually did.  Twenty years ago, I doubt we could have, or even ten years ago.  Yet now we are older, we see, smell, revel and cherish with both old and young eyes in an attempt to gift Mandy with a sense of place, a sense of HOME, a sense of belonging.  That sense of belonging wasn’t lost on any of the sisters; it flooded our senses likely more than any of us expected.  Melly showed it the most, Betsy hid it, and I was desperately trying not to be overwhelmed by it all knowing that Mandy needed to know, needed to feel, hoping she would connect with the water, the earth, the scents, the innate draw of HOME. 


Later, we all descended on Betsy’s house, Mandy, a kitchen whiz, zapped up a magical dinner that wowed even the kitchen maven who is Betsy.  It was amazing to watch, fun, fab, relaxed, FAMILY.


Nobody worried about who was fat, who was old, who had wrinkles, it was all about the “SHUT UP!”  Lots of laughter, lots of love, and it was as if the decades had never intervened.  We ARE such a family, the best kind of family, the whole love, the unconditional kind is so there. 


Tomorrow I’m so NOT wearing makeup…food at MY HOUSE before they have to leave and go back to Florida, remember I didn’t say, “go home” because while they are here, they really ARE HOME!




We actually did it, survived, and had the MOST WONDERFUL time any of us can remember. Crabfeast at MY HOUSE!!!


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