The first thing that you need to know is that obscene amounts of my childhood were spent playing Barbies with my sister on the floor in the basement.
Our basement has a pole, for support (I think?), in the center of the large rec room and we were constantly fighting battles with our brothers over how the room was to be divided “in half” based off of that pole…because heaven knows we could take up half the room with our elaborate play.
And it was elaborate. For me, at least. I don’t think Christine really knows how to play Barbies? Because basically I would make up intricate story webs with characters and hidden identities and princesses-on-the-run that went on for days and weeks and months and it was basically her role to watch the interactions and help me get the dollz ready when there was a ball at the palace. (“Palace” meaning the floor-in-our-basement).
We’d wake each other up in the mornings and play until breakfast, play at lunch, play after chores and if we could sneak in anything else. This was life: playing together.
And since life was so tied to playing together, when the discussion topic turned to what-would-happen-if-we-died (because we were those children) a huge part (the only part?) about our expected-death-discussion was who would end up with our Barbies once we died.
I know. It was gruesome.
But, we were little.
And, if we were angry at each other, the spoken-will would change and we’d say, “You can’t have my Barbies! They’re going to (insert-cousin-or-neighbor-of-choice)!”
Then, literally, one day Christine said, “We’re too old for Barbies.”
So we put them away and no longer spread them all over the basement floor or spent our time immersed in their imagined adventures.
But soon we were old enough for our own adventures anyway. And we went. We went to Europe, Down Under, and even to Canada. 😉 We dressed up and we danced with the best of them. We dressed down and peed in forests while lugging backpacks through the country. We squared our shoulders and ran races, disagreed, laughed, and continued living.
One time I decided it would be the best idea to take bikes to Toronto, but it turns out it wasn’t a good idea because the hostel’s elevator was the size of a milk crate so we had to lug our bikes up and down and up and down the fire stairwell because the bike rack was on the roof. (Right? Like, who engineered that brilliant plan??)
Once when we were riding our bikes across the state on a bicycle tour, I think it was Christine who had the bright idea of pitching our tent far away from the other tents. And the next morning our tent and all of our luggage was crawling with ants because we had pitched our tent on an ant farm/ plantation/ nation. I don’t think there was much to do about the infestation, so I think we just packed everything and the next night the ants were approximately fifty miles from home.
And the things that Christine hates most, and I list, are: ants, small bugs of any kind which remind her of ants, ballet (I think she excludes “Nutcracker,” though), walking anywhere and Greenfield Village (“It’s not logical”).
For you wonder-ers, she loves: soccer, bacon burgers and hypochondriac fevers (“Feel my head. I think I have a fever.”)
I was reading Carrots for Michaelmas last week, and I came across Haley’s dreams for her little daughters:
And while I watched my baby sleep, illumined by the sparkling Christmas tree, I thought about all the Christmases my girls will share together. All the squabbles they will have and the grace they’ll need to offer each other. All the nights they will stay up late talking. The days they might be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. The days, long after I’m gone, when they will flip through photo albums and see pictures of their mother when she was young and exhausted caring for little ones, with love for them sparkling through the dark circles around her eyes. And each can squeeze the other’s hand and know exactly what’s in her sister’s heart. They can do all the sisterly things I will never experience, because I never had a sister.
and I smiled because, yeah. We don’t really ever ever see each other because I have normal-person hours and she works the midnight shift but we’re still in it to win it.
I saw Disney’s Frozen on Sunday with my sister and Pawl and my youngest cousin…and while I spent some time laughing and sometime whispering to youngest-cousin, a lot of my time was also spent SHOULDERS TENSED IN AGONY because the whole movie is about a set of sisters, you know?
I was kind of stressed out because: I cared for them. I cared for them because I care for my own sister. ALL THE FEELS, DISNEY, ALL THE FEELS. Feels about playing together and facing trials together and transitioning to adulthood. All of them. (But never the one about LEAVING YOUR SISTER TO DANCE WITH THE WEIRDO, RIGHT?? RIGHT? Coughcoughcoughitycough). 😉
We emerged from the dark theater and I think we were both kind of shell-shocked by the whole experience.
Yesterday I went to the store. There, by the cash register where I was checking out vegetables and beans (helllllooooo dietary restrictions!), was a Barbie from the movie Frozen. I smiled to myself. I literally thought about buying it (on sale for four dollars!) but decided against that. Adulthood and all that jazz.
But do you want to know what I thought about?
Last summer, on the Camino de Santiago, huge percentages of everything Christine hates happened. Real life, real time.
She napped on the mattress of the jankiest hostel ever (Literally. So janky. Ask anyone) and was attacked by bed bugs. They showed no mercy. She was covered with bites after maybe an hour. They showed up after we left that hostel in a hot-second to the better option of: under the stars, right off of a highway. (Yes. This is my life).
The bites burned her skin, eventually they would leave scars up and down her body, but we weren’t that far yet. The bites did introduce one of her other non-favorites, though…an infection…in the form of a fever.
And she got shin splints.
And it was her magical time of the month.
And we weren’t living large to begin with. Rather, we were walking 15-ish miles a day under Spanish sun and she hates walking anyway.
Post-bedbug-night, Christine and a few of the other pilgrims and I set out, as we were apt to do, an hour or so before the sun rose. We started praying a rosary and our non-fever pace shortly outpaced Christine’s and we prayed and walked until the sun rose.
But then I felt guilty so I told the crew to go on, that I needed to wait for her. But I didn’t know how long she would take so I sat down on one of those stone-things which we never quite found the purpose for and I read my prayer book as pilgrims passed and wished me good morning and good day and good pilgrimage.
Finally, she turned the corner and walked to the bottom of the hill where I was waiting.
“How are you?” I asked.
She kept walking, eyes fixed forward, she who hates all things bug and fever and walking.
The scene is very vivid for me. It was still overcast, still early, so I was in the middle of my “do I take my sweater off or leave it on” mental discussion. We were in the country, by a few farmhouses. The air was clean but a little foggy still. The grass was a green-grey mix in the early sun, still awakening. The farmhouses were terra-cotta.
And I had made her come. Me. Without me, she wouldn’t have been in Spain, she wouldn’t have been bitten, she wouldn’t be walking-with-a-fever.
Christine was walking down a tan-dust road, the dust packed into place by cows and sheep and pilgrims.
“How’s it going?” I asked her.
“You can have my Barbies,” she said, looking ahead, marching forward “and when I die and you arrive in Santiago, throw my body in the ocean.”
There it was: humor and memories and reality, all in one breath.
So then I laughed, shouldered my pack and walked with her.
We pilgrimage together.