Authors: Jack Canfield
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL
FOR THE SOUL
A Collection in Words and Photographs by
Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Maria Bushkin Stave
Backlist, LLC, a unit of
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
Cos Cob, CT
RenÃ© J. Manley
Charlotte A. Lanham
Betsy Banks Epstein
A Hole in My Heart
Christine Pisera Naman
My Sister's Eyebrows
Linda L. S. Knouse
Only the Two of Us in Sight
Carol D. O'Dell
In Search of a Simpler Time
My Sister, Myself
Beneath the Stars
Et, Tu, My Perfect Sister
The Bologna Wars
Tanith Nicole Tyler
e'll each pick a number, starting from oldest to youngest, then we'll each take a pick, in the order of our numbers. You understand?” Louise was fully in charge. We were taking our pick of Mama's quilts.
None of us wanted to fight. Five sisters and one brother were trying valiantly to honor and respect our parents. Louise is the oldest and had the most daily contact with our mother before her quick death from cancer, long quietly taking over her body, but not loud enough to be noticed until too late. Here we sat, on a cold October day, six middle-aged children in the living room of our youth, with eyes red with grief and nervous sweaty hands.
These last six quilts our mother made were something we needed to be fair about and they were all laid out for our choosing. Although not works of art for the most part, they were our heritage. There was a queen-size Dresden plate and two twin-size patchworks, both in good shape. A double-size, double-knit polyester little girl quilt that we remembered from the era of leisure suits and a queen-size log cabin that told its age by the colors: orange and avocado. Then there was the quilt on my mother's bed, a double-size star pattern of Wedgwood blue chintz and cotton. It was gorgeous. And it smelled like Mama.
We reached into the shoebox one at a time for our numbers, and being the baby, I picked last. Fitting, as I got number six, the last to choose from the bed-cover legacy. Libby was the first, and no one was surprised to watch her gather up the Wedgwood blue chintz and fold it into her bag. When my turn came, the double-knit polyester quilt was left, so I took it, remembering Mother handstitching the pitiful thing. So much work for so little beauty!
We'll keep it in the car,
I thought to myself,
for a picnic
As the holidays approached, our grief stayed with us, mostly hidden, but popping up unannounced as tears over a remembered song or a phone call impossible to make. We all moved our bodies toward Christmas, even as our minds stayed with Mother in her hospital bed before she died, or in her flower gardenâor on her sun porch. Christmas would be hard.
Packages began to arrive, though, and I had to notice that the rest of the world didn't stop in the shadow of my sadness. On Christmas Eve, my children have the privilege of opening one package before bed, but on this night they encouraged me to join in. A large box from Ohio had piqued their interest. What could Aunt Libby have sent?
Laughing, I tore open the box, expecting a joke: an inflatable chair or bubble bath buried in yards of newspaper. As I peeked past the wrapping, my hands shook and my vision wavered through a film of sudden tears. Inside the box lay, neatly folded, the coveted chintz quilt from Mama's bed. I buried my face in the folds to take in the lingering scent of my mother, and to add my tears. On top of the quilt was a card:
To my baby sisterâmy first pick.
RenÃ© J. Manley
My sister has two rockers.
She lives in Tennessee
And when I go to visit her
We rock and sip on tea.
The color of her rockers?
A dusty shade of blue.
They're on the porch, beside the door
Where all the folks walk through.
At times we both drink Passionfruit.
At times we sip Earl Grey,
As on the porch we rock and watch
The seasons pass away.
We've talked about our children
We've laughed and cried together
We've sat with sun upon our laps
We've rocked in rainy weather.
Dear Lord, please save two rockers
On the porch called “Glorious Day.”
Make hers Eternal Passionfruit.
Make mine the King's Earl Grey.
Charlotte A. Lanham
e began brainstorming two years ago, but somehow it took that long to plan our overnight in New York City. We were dreaming of a mini-vacation exclusively for us without the two husbands we adore and the five children we have mothered. Of course, we see one another often during holiday celebrations and other events but as we've lived in different states for almost twenty-four years, it's hard to experience time together without the din of other people's voices.
My sister is three years older than I am. When we were young, such a gap loomed like an enormous age difference. Was it because I was the middle child who learned to play both sides of the fence? If the world according to my little brother looked like more fun, I'd ally myself with him. If my sister started to enjoy the special privileges that came with her seniority, I'd beg to be included on her agenda.
At times, I drove her crazy. Since our shared closet connected our bedrooms, I could hide on my side and open her door ever so gently to find out how she was dressing for the day. Then I would scramble to imitate her style. For such an intelligent girl, it took her a while to figure out how I could successfully copy her.
Whether they do so consciously or not, parents usually label their children. This was especially true of our parents' generation. My sister was the smart one, while I was the pretty one who still labors to this day to appear like I have a strong mind. My sister continues to fuss with her hair and makeup, and deliberates endlessly about her wardrobe.
We hatched the New York idea because we could catch dinner with our brother who lives there, but also because this city is a logical meeting spot between my home in Boston and hers in Baltimore. Daunted by our busy schedules and raging blizzards that derailed trains and grounded planes, we changed our lodging reservation four times over the course of a year.
Finally on a Tuesday, we were ready to synchronize our watches for our rendezvous. My train arrived at Penn Station miraculously on time; I scrambled outside to hail a cab. As my taxi approached the Soho Grand Hotel, I could see the slick concrete exterior and the bellmen tailored in black from head to toe. For our one night, we were aiming for chic sophistication.
In the lobby, my sister was the first person I saw. Arms open wide, she greeted me with a warm hug. “Did you find it okay? Are you hungry? I'll show you the bathroom.” She said all three seemingly in one breath. I was smiling. Perhaps she would always mother me in the kindest of ways.
For our day and a half, we walked the streets of Soho and Tribeca. We ambled slowly as we luxuriated in our lack of routine or timetable. Behind our dark glasses, which shielded us from the bright sunlight and enabled us to feel like celebrities traveling incognito, we perused storefronts for the perfect shoe as we marveled over chartreuse suede stilettos and leopard slides. We waded through a used clothing emporium searching for vintage purses, and modeled Parisian silk blouses in a fancy boutique where we needed to ring a bell in order to be admitted.