I have a little sister.
She looks just like me.
Except that she has red hair.
And big blue eyes.
And a cute little chin.
And long eyelashes.
Okay, she doesn't look like me at all.
I love her anyways.
We grew up together, as often happens in families.
And had experiences.
Which also often happens in families.
When Anita was two, my mother asked us older kids to take her swimming with us.
Brave woman, my mother.
But I guess she thought that Chris, at 16, was responsible.
And she was.
Really, really responsible.
When she was awake.
|A bit older. Just a bit|
On this particular occasion, she had her radio. And her dreams of her current boyfriend.
And the warm sun. And the hot sand.
You're right. It wasn't her fault.
She dozed off.
The rest of us played happily for some time.
I was standing knee deep in the milky water, trying to catch a fish that insisted on swimming tantalizingly close.
Then a strange sound intruded.
A sort of . . . gasping.
I looked up.
Five feet from me, little Anita had toddled off the sandy shelf where she had been sitting, playing, and fell into the river.
She was just coming up for the second time.
Nonchalantly (I like that word), I reached out and grabbed her swimsuit, pulled her out and plopped her onto the sand once more.
She gasped and coughed a couple of times, then went back to her toys.
I turned back to my hunting.
It wasn't until years later that I remembered the incident.
And shivered with 'what might have happened'.
* * *
When I was ten, my oldest sister, Chris, moved out.
I suddenly had that hitherto (real word) unheard of treat - my own bedroom.
It was wonderful.
During the day.
But, being alone at night for the first time, I made a discovery.
At night, things looked vastly different.
The darkness held many suspicious creaks and shadows.
And, unfortunately, my imagination was always awake.
I needed a companion.
Someone who would protect me from . . . whatever lay in wait in the dark.
My sister's room was right next door.
Okay, she was three, and who knew what she would be able to do if we truly were confronted with . . . whatever lay in wait . . . you understand.
But she was warm.
She was all I had.
Carefully, I would creep into her room, lift the sleeping little girl from her bed, and tuck her into Chris' side of the bed.
Then I would happily snuggle into my side and fall immediately asleep.
If Mom asked in the morning, I simply told her that Anita had crawled in with me in the night.
Everyone was happy.
And no one knew that Diane was afraid of the dark.
* * *
And Anita was with me.
This time, it was my turn to be in charge.
And think about boyfriends.
Because my boyfriend was with us.
He and I were sitting in the sand at the edge of the water, visiting, when a sound intruded.
Only this time, it had just a bit more volume behind it.
"Diane!" someone shrieked.
I looked up.
Anita, who had been floating quite happily close to the shore in an old inner tube, had strayed too far out into the river.
She was now in the grip of the current.
Nonchalantly (that word again), I waded out. Then swam that last few feet towards her.
This time, however, when I grabbed her, she grabbed back.
And nearly drowned me.
Finally, I managed to turn her and her inner tube away from me, then kicked the both of us to the shore.
Then really shivered with 'what might have happened'.
Why do so many of our near-misses happen in water?
* * *
|Who wouldn't trust that little face!|
Today, Anita is a wife and mother. She runs a million-dollar business that she created. She is a flight attendant and cub leader and community organizer.
And still has time to run and keep fit.
But when I think of her, I still see the little girl who broke the lamp for which Blair took the blame.
Who was bright and cute and smart.
And who gave Mom the last of her grey hairs.
The little girl who loved to organize.
And wrap packages.
And get into my things.
And who's middle name, though she would claim it's Faye, is really Trouble (notice the capital 'T').
|Today. Or at least not many days ago . . .|
Huh. In some ways, she hasn't changed.
But now, she lives most of a continent away.
I miss her.
I love her.