The thin strap to my shiny and scuffed Mary Janes was worn and only holding on by a few remaining stitches. My little fingers fidgeted with the buckle, trying to be careful not to break it. Not today, I thought. Today I will have pretty shoes and a pretty dress and ruffled-underwear. Today I will get a brand new sister. I could not wait for her to see me.
I sat on the edge of the bed in the Care Bear room waiting. It was the spare room in the back of my grandmother’s house, reserved for the stragglers that seemed to always be floating in and out with duffle bags and suitcases. I knew of grown men with husky voices that sat their bags down in this room full of colorful bears, who had hearts for noses and sunshine on their bellies. But when I spent the night, it was my room. Through the years, as more grandkids were added and Care Bears were thrown out, the room kept its name. Into my teen years, I continued to reference the Care Bear room although it had nothing that resembled rainbows and sunshine.
While sitting there dangling my unbuckled shoes, I wondered how long it would be until my Aunt Patsy came in to tell me it was time to go to the Hospital. I couldn’t wait any longer. I crept down the long hallway that led to my Aunt Patsy’s seasonal bedroom. She was presently in the not-talking-to-her-husband season so she bunked there that weekend. I saw no light coming from under her door. I waved my hand in front of my face. I couldn’t make out anything it was so dark. With my eyes-crossed, I hugged the wall as a guide, dragging my arm against the Spanish stucco. By the time I reached her door, I had played out an entire scene from “Tales From The Dark Side” a Sci Fi/ horror tv series that my dad and I watched religiously on Friday Nights. I liked anything dad liked, so fear and all its thrill became my drug at the age of four. I was also made with a reckless imagination; the combination of the two would later lead to me getting kicked out of Pre-K. (I’ve sought counsel, thank you for your concerns.)
I shook Aunt Patsy awake.
She coughed and hacked, “What Jacklyn?”, reaching for her cigarettes.
“I’m ready to see my sister,” I whispered.
“Oh hell, it’s not even 4 o’clock. You’ve gotta go back to bed. You hear me? Go.”
“But I need you to help me buckle my shoes.” I said.
“I will buckle your shoes in four hours. Go back to bed.”
Later that evening I bounced down the hospital hall in my wrinkled but still pretty dress and met my little sister. Looking at her through the glass, and smacking on my pink, bubble gum cigar, I knew that come hell or high water, I was going to make sure nothing bad ever happened to her. That day I stepped into my first role of responsibility, sisterhood.
My sister was named Lindsey Brooke. My Nanna, my mom’s mother, told me I nearly got that name but “Charlie’s Angel” was a hit show around the time I was born, and the actress Jaclyn Smith was my parent’s favorite Angel. I’m not sure where my middle name “Rashelle” came from, but for the first half of my life my parents argued on how to spell it. When they finally found my birth certificate, mom ate crow.
Oh those precious pink sponge rollers.