What I meant to say…

November 17, 2008 § 2 Comments

In the months, days, hours and minutes before my sister’s wedding, I was struck by an unusual and uncomfortable feeling of stage fright, having been notified that I would, of course, be giving a speech.  No one thought twice about it, and why should they?  I’m an actress, an improviser, a ham, a goofball, someone who is well practiced in yelling out “HEY LOOK!”, but in hyper emotional situations I tend to turn bright red and nasally, and I cry like a screeching donkeygoose, trying to talk through my outbursts, which results in a gurgling, high pitched stream of consciousness expulsion that sort of resembles letting air out of a balloon while manipulating the stretching opening.  And this was my sister’s wedding.  My only sister, her only wedding, and my only chance to tell 200 or so people at once, how I feel about that gal.

In the end, I decided to just go with my gut, having planned on one story to tell, which is my favorite; the story of Allison coming home from the hospital, her little shock of black Wild Indian Hair erupting from a tightly wrapped blanket.  I wanted to desperately to see her, to hold her, to dress her up in outfits, to play games with her, to feed her. But what I really wanted, was to look good for her.  So I’d chosen carefully, a red, yellow, orange and green striped shirt and green pants.  That’s right everyone:  I went with The Ernie.  This choice would end up being catastrophic and memorable for the rest of my life, because the pants were too small and I ended up pulling them up to cover my underpants all day, while everyone else cooed and ooohed and ahhhed over my new little sister.

Indeed, this is a good story, and the way I wove it in with an expression of love, congratulations,self deprication,nostalgia and weeping, I was told over and over that it was one of the finest wedding toasts ever heard.  Part of this could be the open bar, part could be that I was toasting with a pitcher of coffee creamer since I forgot my glass.

But you know what I really wanted to say?  I wanted to say that looking back over our typical suburban white girls childhood, it’s amazing that Allison even talks to me at this point in our lives.  It’s amazing that she isn’t blogging right now about her completely bizarre and inappropriate big sister who never gave her a single word of advice on boys (because Allison was better at that than me) or on clothes (because Allison was better at that than me) or school (because Allison had too many friends to worry about school, and I was such a massive under achiever it’s amazing I make the effort to breathe every day). 

Allison - A celebration of life and love

Allison - A celebration of life and love

Face it, I was a lonesome nerd, unaware of the standard hierarchy in family relationships, so I was all too happy to spend my days with a girl half my age.  When other thirteen year olds were shoving their little sisters out into the hallway so they could paint their nails and listen to the Top Eight At Eight on WPXY, I was rollerskating with Allison, never ending laps of our unfinished basement, making up stories, listening to A-ha.  One summer we made a conserted effort to bring back the forties.  We tried to learn how to play marbles and jacks and used some old jargon, because we liked the fun that Archie and Pals were having in the comic books.  We consoled each other after playing “too much reality Barbies” with our strange neighbors who watched too many adult television shows.  In the Fall we played Little House On The Prairie in the front yard, and in my one display of big sister jerkiness, I made Allison be Carrie.  Who in the name of God wants to be CARRIE?  THE GIRL WHO WIPES OUT IN THE OPENING CREDITS?  And as Carrie, all she was allowed to do was gather firewood.  We wore our genuine calico bonnets and I sat under the maple trees and pretended to darn socks, make stew, quilt, write a letter to someone in Sleepy Eye, the usual.  And every time Allison toddled up with an armful of tiny sticks, I would take them and say “ok, now go rustle up some firewood for dinner.”  She never complained, never asked for a rewrite, never threw the sticks in my face and said ‘cram it’.   She just wiped her nose on her sleeve and ran off to do my bidding.  She was happy to play along when I told strangers I was training to be a speedskater in the Olympics and Allison was helping me work out.  She let me choreograph the dances and skits that we put on for the family.  She was my poky little puppy when she was little, always wanting to tag along.

And then, it was as if the moment she reached puberty, she surpassed me.  I found myself in college, envious of a fourteen year old and her huge circle of friends, her jam packed social calendar, her prospective gentleman callers lined up around the block.  There was never a day when she wasn’t comfortable with herself, when she wasn’t confident, relaxed. 

She has a sharp and fearless sense of humor.  One of my favorite things she ever did was win an award for creative salesmanship by wearing a coffee filter on her head at the movie theatre where she worked.  Why is that good salesmanship? Because upon seeing the coffee filter, movie goers, unaware that coffee was even available, began to buy it. 

And now here she is today, strong, beautiful, funny, her nose free of yellow crayons and crusted over snots, her hair a long, bronzed ribbon rather than a spiky Indian child from another world.  She’s learned to express her anger with well chosen words rather than digging her fingernails into her opponent’s arm until they cry uncle.  She’s all grown up, she was the world’s most beautiful, calm, put together bride. I love her, I always will.

THAT’S what I wanted to say.

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§ 2 Responses to What I meant to say…

  • Meredith says:

    :: cry ::
    :: cry ::
    :: cry ::

    SISTERS. They make this crazy planet worth it.

  • Debbie says:

    Did it every occur to you that Allison is the way she is today because of her big sister? She idolized you and so did my boys.
    You were the first niece, the first grandchild and we all adored you. You made me want to have kids as soon as I could with your Uncle Tim. When your family moved in 1979, I was so upset because I knew I would miss your mom, your dad and both you and Allison growing up….Those summer vacations driving out to spend time in Penfield were the best!
    You have a gift, Jessica. Your writing is so damn good and I hope you never stop writing. I hope all your dreams come true one day…

    Love, Debbie

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