On Wednesday of this week I went to my sister’s in Richmond to get my hair done. My sister has been my hairdresser, on and off, much of my life. Even before she became a professional, she gave me a "Vidal Sassoon" haircut that I tore myself to have, only she didn’t have real scissors or training and my hair is naturally curly so when my cut didn’t look exactly like Twiggy’s, I pitched a royal fit and kicked the footboard off our mother’s bed. I was 14. Patricia was 20. Amazingly enough, she still does my hair.
I usually get my hair cut and colored while I’m at Hollins because it’s a long stretch between visits to my sister. I didn’t this time. My sister met me at the door when I pulled up in her driveway, declaring she could see my white roots shining clear to Fredericksburg. Sometimes when I go to have my hair done, we go junkin’.
We both love to go junkin’, even if we don’t have any money. The top photo is of my sister taking a picture of me while I’m taking a picture of her. We’d been antiquin’ that whole live long day. Antiquin’ with my sister is often quite an experience. If we go to an antique mall or a huge flea market, the first thing Pat will latch onto is a table or a heavy chair. And we have to lug it around the entire trip. Pat is the type to examine every teeny little thing in a booth, while I tend to rip through them (missing most of the good stuff). We have the same taste and even collect the same things, but we never squabble over finds. Almost never.
But this time we just stayed put at her house. Her dogs, Sugar and Spike (remember that comic book?), swam around underfoot like goldfish. She caught me up on the doins’ of her daughters, Susan and Stephanie, and their kids, Taylor, Sherri, Ashley, and Alex. Then, as always, talk turned to the old days when we were kids. We try to recreate the good parts of our childhoods and piece together the puzzle of the bad parts.
We sat in her den and watched "I Love Lucy" and she talked about the second house our father built, the big brick one in Manassas on Sudley Road. Although I was born in that house (not literally), I don’t remember it all. Pat described the house room by room–the three TVs, including one in our parents’ bedroom and a built-inTV in the paneled rec room in the basement, the leather bar, the hearth that went across one end of the rec room, the Duncan Phyfe furniture in the dining room, the screened-in porches with gliders, the patio and big brick barbeque. A house made for parties and entertaining. My sister’s words rose and fell, like listening to a fairy tale.
Shortly after I was born, the party ended and my father lost that house. We moved to a small white house behind it. And then a little later, to my aunt’s and uncle’s house next door after my father left us.
Through it all my sister and I have remained close. As the youngest, I’ve always wanted to be just like her: tough, kind, creative, and a good cook (I’ve fallen down in a few departments). Wednesday she painted my toenails–a wicked dark green OPI shade like hers. I put my foot up on her knee and flashed back to the days when she would lie on her back in the yard and I would stand on her knees and grip her hands and she’d raise her legs so I’d be up in the air, one of the "tricks" we did together.
Then we watched Lucy and Ricky and Ethel and Fred going to California. We’ve been watching "I Love Lucy" together for about 45 years. It’s our favorite show and it still makes us laugh.
I’m lucky to have a sister who remembers things I don’t. Who understands the siren call of antiques and agrees that yes, I should buy that vintage child’s booster seat even though I have no place for it. Who I can trust with childhood secrets, with problems, with my hair. Even if she can’t give me a Sassoon cut.