Saturday, April 08, 2006

Sisters, Part 2: Gloria

        It was a cool spring evening in Alberta. My Dad was graduating from Bible School that night and he was probably the only person on stage who wasn't smiling. Instead, he was casting worried glances my Mom's way. I was nearly six and had been the baby of the family for a long time. I knew my Mom was going to have a new baby soon, but I didn't realize that I would be dethroned by the event. Dad and Mom both made it through Graduation but found themselves in the hospital later that night where my Mom gave birth to a baby girl. The sky was dancing with Northern Lights and they named her Gloria Grace. Alyssa and I were a bit miffed that they didn't call her Crystal Princess or something like that, but we loved her anyway. My Dad hung her cradle from the ceiling in our tiny living room and we welcomed her into our lives.
        Even though she had usurped me as the littlest, cutest person in the family I liked my baby Gloria. You can tell because in family pictures from that era I was often pouting at not being allowed to hold her. I was delighted when all her hair fell out around a year old because it gave me a chance to use one of my new vocabulary words: molting. I didn't realize that it wasn't used to describe people. She grew to be a sweet little girl, creative from the start. As soon as she could hold a pencil she started drawing things that looked like what they were supposed to. It was pretty amazing. We would find her drawing little stick people and sunshines on everything from her legs to the back of our Scrabble tiles. It came in handy if you needed a certain letter. When she wasn't drawing she was having adventures with her imaginary friend Purple-ea.
        She spent about four years of her young life wearing a pink bathing suit. Since we lived in the Great Frozen North she often had to wear several layers over it to stay warm, but you could say it was her base layer, day in and day out. On top of the bathing suit would go whatever outfit she fancied at the moment. Seriously, this girl would change her clothes ten times a day and throw the last ones on the floor in a heap. It was the artist in her I guess. Clothes to match the mood or something like that. I'm not sure, but I think she still changes her outfit more often than most people do.
        Gloria was always sweet and eager to please, sometimes a little too much. People with more domineering personalities, like our youngest brother and myself, would really take advantage of her. When she was about 7 or 8 I would ask her if she wanted to play queen-and-servant. Eager to play with her much older and cooler sister she would happily agree. And let me tell you, I really made my little servant serve me! I owe her big time.
        As adults we've had so many adventures together. There have been lots of road trips in my sometimes-not-so-reliable Datsun to Seattle and San Francisco and Santa Cruz and all over Oregon. There were the three months we spent traveling around Asia together. We passed long hours riding in boats and snorkeling in crystal blue water, riding elephants, and drinking mango shakes on the beaches of Southern Thailand. In Nepal we cooked on our rooftop and rode in tiny rickshaws, made lots of friends, had cockroach killing contests before bed, and fell in love with that little war-torn Himalayan kingdom. We laughed as the people tried to figure out who was the older sister: didi, bahini? Bahini, didi? And then there was India. I had been there before but Gloria's welcome to India began in a train station that was so crowded there was barely room to move. There were men sitting staring at us as if we were movie stars. That night we were woken by loud knocking on our hotel door at two in the morning. It was five policemen wanting to see our passports. You really would think they'd have something more important to do than harass innocent tourists! The next day began the 19 hour train ride that is a story in itself. Let's just say it was hot, humid, and crowded. And I mean India crowded, like 22 people in a compartment meant for 8. That story deserves its own telling so I'll leave it for another day. We spent three weeks in India, up in the mountains where the Dalai Lama lives. We walked forested roads and ate roasted barley porridge and listened to monkeys play on the rooftops and fell in love with another land and another people, the Tibetans. Gloria was sick there and we played countless games of cards and ate mangoes together. We met all kinds of strange and wonderful people there before retracing our steps through Nepal, Thailand, and back to the U.S.
        Gloria is a wonderful auntie to my kids, and a wonderful sister and friend. She paints and decorates and makes things beautiful. We can finish each other's sentences, or say something like "Do you remember that time...." and both dissolve into laughter without ever actually mentioning the time we're thinking of. We can both talk and listen at the same time, which leaves my husband totally bewildered. I'm so glad that she lives just down the road and I get to see her often. She got married just a few months ago and now is living a new adventure. Her husband is a brave man to marry into our big and crazy family and I wish them every happiness in their life together. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe she's all grown up, my little Northern Lights Baby Sister.

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