My sister and I are very close. Not in terms of geography – we’re actually 3,000 miles apart. She lives on one coast of North America and I live on the other.
Technology, much as I resent it, has kept us close throughout the years. So much so that when we visit one another, it’s as if no time has passed at all.
We are like the original Laverne and Shirley, bumbling our way through life’s stressful situations and leaning on each other for support. We have our many neuroses between the two of us. Some of these are compounded with our nearness to each other.
Our last visit was a memorable one. We were together for a whole week. My husband would say it was a dangerous thing. We didn’t know what he was talking about.
When my sister and I talk on the phone or e-mail, our similarities are obvious. However, when we are together and have to deal with the minutiae of life with children, our differences are glaring.
For example, I like whole wheat bread for my family (it’s healthier), she likes white bread, but only if it’s super thin (it’s healthier). I like skim milk (less fat), she’s of the organic-2% persuasion (less growth hormones). She’s spiritually centered (likes the structure), I am rather ambivalent about organized religion and the afterlife (I’m not even counting on Social Security). She and her family are allergic to everything, we are fortunate to be selectively allergic.
Imagine this combination of people camping in a cabin.
The cabin I booked was supposed to be equipped with a kitchenette, so we brought milk (organic-2%) and those little bite-size cereal boxes for breakfast. Her family liked the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and mine liked the Raisin Bran and Mini Wheats. As it turns out, the cabin did not have a kitchenette (one of my neuroses was obsessing about that fact). So we put the carton of milk in a garbage pail and poured ice over it. We were quite proud of ourselves for overcoming this dilemma until the condensation began pooling on the cabin floor. We did have another garbage can, though, so we doubled-canned it.
My son happened to mention the possibility of chiggers in the trees. This was a neurosis my sister obsessed over. She was afraid she might be allergic to the tiny pests. The cabin was hot at night, but my sister closed the windows in her room thinking it would save her from the chiggers. There was no consoling her with the fact that there were screens on the windows and chiggers don’t fly, even if they wanted her. Humans are only accidental targets for chiggers. They’d rather have a nice juicy bird than my sister. The insensitive side of me wanted to say, “Don’t be such a crybaby.” Instead, I laughed at her. Okay, so that’s insensitive too. The cabin door hinges never saw a drop of oil in their obviously lengthy existence and the potty was located a half-mile away from the cabin. Therefore, those of us who couldn’t hold it any longer would wake up, tip-toe through the pool of condensation, open the door, and invoke an ear-piercing shriek/groan similar to a banshee with a case of constipation. Needless to say, none of us got a full night’s sleep, which didn’t help our driving and navigation skills the next day.
I was driving and she was navigating. Or rather, I was trying to stay on the road and she was pointing out every available route we could choose to take, but never really choosing one.
“Stay on the road!” she’d say, in fear for her life and those of the children. I’d counter with, “Stop showing me the map, pick a route, and tell me where to go!” “I’d tell you where to go, alright, if I wasn’t a Christian!” “Jesus would’ve known which way to go!” I yelled. “Jesus wouldn’t be driving like a maniac!” she yelled back.
When we arrived back home, I was still apologizing for my dubious driving skills and the fact that we didn’t have a refrigerator and she began washing every article of clothing we brought to rid herself of the imaginary chiggers.
If there were chiggers on the paths we were traversing, they would have chosen more amiable hosts.