Archive for November 2011

Passages

November 23, 2011

When my sister was growing up, her toys of choice were Match Box cars, Johnny West ‘action figures’ and GI Joes. My world centered around the words that swirled from books into my head and the dolls that could recreate their stories. My Barbies headed west in shoebox Conestoga wagons and escaped from the Nazis in cake pan boats. They ‘worked’ alongside Sister Kenny treating polio with cardboard and Scotch tape splints and delivered messages as couriers for the French Resistance.

While my sister busied herself and her neighborhood friends digging roads for Hot Wheel traffic, making rivers and dams in mud puddles and setting up battles for her GI Joes and little green army men, I was stitching dresses and pinafores for my dolls and doing their hair with satin ribbons and taking them on adventures of a different sort. I remember making a sled for one particular doll and taking her out to play during a blustery snow storm one winter when I was about ten. Together we struggled to ‘build’ shelter in the cold wind, battling to ‘survive’ on the ‘steppes of Siberia.’ Yes. I was a strange child.

But on the plus side, my sister now says that she learned more about history playing with me than she ever did from a book. Hee.

And when our girls were younger, we often wondered how we ended up with the daughter the other one probably should have had.
My niece was the sort of child who preferred hair bows, dresses and lace on her shorts. My daughter, on the other hand, was happiest when she was decked out in her brother’s hand me down jeans and tee shirts. The more worn the better.

My niece was a doll lover from the get go, pure and simple. She carried a ratty little Cabbage Patch – aptly named ‘Libby Kitty’ – everywhere when she was younger, graduated to American Girl dolls and then trucked a vinyl life size baby doll everywhere….for years. My daughter, on the other hand, stuffed the Barbies she was given as gifts when she arrived from Russia, under her bed and upon entering the American Girl store in Chicago when she was seven, screeched ‘Get me out of here! This place is freaking me out!” Dolls, it seemed, scare her because they are always staring.

My niece played softball one season and was overheard complaining that her ‘hair bows hurt her head’ when she wore the batting helmet and ran the bases. My daughter, on the other hand, has limbs that are covered with bruises and scratches and sweat irritated scabs from her shin guards when she is playing soccer….which is pretty much 11 months out of the year. Hair bows? Fergit that.

My niece received a costume box collection from us one Christmas. It had a cheerleader skirt, feather boas, plastic high heels, a Red Riding Hood cape, a pink tutu, sparkly little mini dress, sun glasses, tiara, a faux buckskin painted Indian dress, and more. In short, everything an imaginative little girl needed for pretending. Most of the items were handmade by me. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted nothing but the ‘haunted pirate’ costume she found – and begged for – in the drug store aisle when she was eight. She wore it for three Halloweens in a row.

A thirteen hour drive and some 800 miles have separated me from my niece and my daughter from her aunt. Always. And distance stinks. There have been times when my sister and I have exchanged conversations about just ‘not getting’ our daughters….and knowing the person on the other end of the line totally did.

Because of distance, I think we have missed out on a lot, my sister and I. The years have passed and we have missed out on sister stuff and mothers/daughters stuff and auntie/niece stuff that would have made our lives all the richer. We never really had the opportunity for ‘quanity time’ together…. girly stuff like shopping or movies or just hanging out together and visiting. And given the area in which she has been raised my niece had an adorable very Southern accent that made it impossible to understand a word she was saying over the telephone when she was growing up. Face to face communication was better, but our physical contact with one another was destined to be an occasional holiday, spring vacation or special family event. News was exchanged via telephone, letters and then email and now Face Book.

My niece – and her older brother – very literally grew up overnight. Every time we saw them, there were tremendous developmental changes. The baby I saw at Christmas was a walking, talking toddler by the time I saw her again. It seemed like the round, little third grader was in middle school when I blinked . She graduated from high school…and then college. And several weeks ago we traveled south to share in momentous moment of another kind. It appears that I blinked again.

A wedding dress

Sigh.

But I think times will change for my sister and I. Given the generational issues that we have experienced thus far, my niece is likely to have a little girl who will love the Match box cars and Johnny Wests of her generation. My sister will love that.  My daughter, on the other hand, will likely produce a little girl who loves bows and books and dolls and pretend and……er….um……

Naw. Fergit that.

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