The best of times really were just hanging out doing nothing. But doing nothing in the end was something if you know what I mean. Get this. My mom had this red shag rug, a zebra skin on the wall and a fake leopard bar. A bar! Can you believe it? We lived in this tiny apartment but there was a bar. And her chair, the chair that nobody sat in except her, was this leather piece. Black leather that looked like this except black. She never said nobody could sit in it. We just knew we couldn’t. And sometimes if we wanted to check it out you would for a few uncomfortable minutes and then move. It was like she was always in it even if she wasn’t.
Some days for no reason at all, I would decide to give her the performance of a lifetime. And I would stand in front of her, somewhere between the chair and the fake leopard bar and I would sing. There would be no holding back. No shyness, no thinking about the neighbours.Just pure unadulterated ‘out there-ness”.belting out Edith Piaf when I was going through my Edith phase, or Bowie or maybe a little cabaret. I liked to mix it up. I would strut and dance and sing like my life depended on it. And she would sit there in that chair, my only audience member. Afterwards I would bow and she would just look at me and say “Wow, that was so great. You are so great.” And I believed every single word and for those few short moments I would really feel super human as though I was a real star. And those words and that moment got me through some tough times later in my life. And I’ve always been thankful that I had somebody in my life who was kind enough, generous enough to say that. Because you can get a lot of mileage out of saying that kind of thing to a kid everyone once in a blue moon.
Yikes, the phone is ringing!
I am coming to the realization that technology is getting in the way of my relationships. Once upon a time long ago, people used to call me. Not so much anymore. I don’t even look at my answering machine because the only people who leave messages are charity groups. Even my stalwart friend Erica doesn’t phone anymore. “Why would I?”, she says “You don’t answer your phone and you don’t return calls. If I didn’t know better I’d say you didn’t love me.” You see, my preferred method of communication, is text. I like to write people (often randomly) pop in, say hello at all hours of the day and night and then get the hell out of dodge but not before including an adorable emoticon to convey my genuine emotion.
Unfortunately, I am diametrically opposed to one of my sisters. Let’s call her Jokelee. Jokelee (the owner of the late Birdie) is the bastion of non-social communication. She is on facebook but has no friends. The friendly thoughtful algorithm in fb’s sidebar frequently reminds me to help my sister find more fb friends. She doesn’t really need help finding friends. She is the same person who goes to the liquor store and invites half the people in the line-up home for a little dinner for 20.
So while actually talking to my text friendly sister Petra I told her to tell Jokelee to get a cell phone so we can connect. “I’ll mention it to her.” she said.
Me. “Good. Tell her if she needs help texting I’ll teach her.”
Her: Why don’t you tell her yourself?
Me: Because the last time I called (3 months ago) her line was busy and she has no auto voice mail.
Her: Alright. But she won’t do it.
Me: Just tell her.
Next phone call:
Her: Have you talked to her?
Me: No. Did you tell her?
Me: What did she say?
Her: Not likely.
Many months later. Guilt is setting in. Jokelee is probably really mad at me. What could she be mad at? I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ll send her an email and tell her I love her and mention the phone.
3 weeks later. THE GUILT IS KILLING ME. I’m breaking down. I am convinced she hates me and is seething with anger at some unbeknownst slight I have perpetrated against her person. I should phone. I’m going to phone. When I mention this to my brother he agrees with me. “She’s probably really mad about something. What did you to her?” “I didn’t do anything.” “Well you must have.” he says. Thanks.
So I phone her.
Me: I figured if I can’t make the mountain come to me I will come to the mountain.
And we erupt into wild laughter.
Jokelee: Petra told me you told her I should get a phone. What the hell should I get a phone for? So I can tweet all of you what I had for breakfast.
Me: You mean text.
Jokelee: Hey I’m tweeting you and everyone else that I’m slicing peaches. How exciting is that? Or that I’m just arriving at your house. Hey I’m tweeting that I’m going to zoomba again! I’ve done a cost analysis of getting a cell phone. I’m not doing it. I think of phoning you but you never answer your phone.
Me: I know. I still won’t answer my phone but my compromise is that I am going to phone you more regularly. The anxiety of not talking to you isn’t good for my soul.
And so our conversation goes. Like sisters. We laughed like the old friends we are. The comfort of family is like fitting perfectly into a curve. It snaps together. We’re over our drought and will continue on. And me. I’m going to try and use the phone. Every so often. Because I’m flexible. Sort of.
Tessa: For a long time now my brother John and I have lived apart. I moved to Vancouver ages ago and even though he and his wife Alison lived here for awhile they chose to go back to Ontario.
Growing up my brother and I had our fair share of fights, and as adults we’ve also had our share of fights but we have always been best friends.
Even though I’ve lived in BC for almost thirty years we’ve managed to maintain a great phone relationship. We usually chat at least once a week, sometimes more and sometimes a little less. We often talk about his kids, or work or what’s going on with either of us but we often are just plain silly. Just as Batman completes the Joker, my brother is my other truly silly half. We laugh alot.
Sometimes I can’t wait to tell him some story that I know will make him roar and I hope he’ll pass it on to his wife Alison.
So when John and Alison decided to go to Peru for three weeks to celebrate their 25th anniversary, I didn’t realize how much I would miss him. My mom called one night to say that Johnny had called and that she had burst into tears when she heard him on the line. “I miss him.” she said. ” He visits me almost every night.”
My brother would never admit that he visits my mom because she needs visiting, he’d say he’s stopping by to have a cocktail with her but I think he’s stopping by because she likes him and needs him to visit.
The thing about my brother is this. He wasn’t raised by a dad who was that great. And my mom was a bit crazy too. Even though he was raised by my sometimes violent dad who was more often than not a jerk, he has grown up to be the kind of guy who decided to break that cycle. He is a great dad, a good husband, a great son and good brother. And he’s wickedly silly and funny.
People like my brother give me hope that you can make your life better than you were taught it could be. That’s why I was so damn happy when he and his wife and son came back safely from Peru and we could resume our regular chats.