Posted by: MC | August 28, 2011

Sister Story

There’s a spirit of listening – an inclination to learn – and for all but the most shy, a powerful desire to make social contact, to communicate, to hang out.  EX:Change and the 100 Voices book ( turn out to be living records of this spirit.  I thought I was starting a project to learn about change – about what a popular word in a particular time meant to the people using it.  I was.  But over and over the listening turned out to be the real thing.

Julie just stopped to talk to me here in the coffee shop.  She was needing access to the electrical outlet behind my left shoulder – the only one in the room from what either of us had been able to tell.  Her I-Phone had run out of charge, “and,” she said, “well, it’s actually a really big day for me.”

I don’t know if I said, “Oh really,” or “Tell me about it.”  I don’t remember saying anything, but I had said, “no problem” when she asked if she could reaching over my shoulder.  I was looking her way and probably smiling.

“Yeah,” she continued, “in just an hour I’m going to meet my sister for the first time.”  Julie was glowing.  She couldn’t contain herself and I was completely with her.  “Just before she was born, her dad decided to leave my mom.  Took off, just like that.”  That was 44 years ago.  Julie explained, “Back then, there wasn’t really any room for having a baby out of wedlock so my mom got put in some public sanatorium.  She didn’t ever think of anything but giving the baby up for adoption.”

“But she always told us about her.  She didn’t hide it.  Me and my mom, we’re really close.  Every year on my big sister’s birthday we’d do a little celebration, but we never thought we’d meet her.  We didn’t dare to even hope for it.  You know, people have lives and you don’t want to just jump in and interrupt them if they don’t want you there.

“The other thing my mom did every year on my sister’s birthday was to buy a newspaper.  She’s got every one of them, except for one year – just a few years ago.  Turns out that was the year that she … my  sister put an ad in the paper looking for my mom.  Really.  And we missed it.

“But she found us this time.  We just got the word last week.  My mom was at work at the hospital, but my dad was home.  He called me and we all went running down to the hospital where he just couldn’t stop telling everybody the good news.  That’s the way it is.  We’re all so excited.  And in just an hour, we’ll meet her at the airport.  I can’t believe it.

“My mom and my brother have the balloons and flowers and stuff.  I made the sign.  What a time for my phone to lose its charge!

“I kind of like it that it’s so sudden and everything.  I mean, there hasn’t be time for any of that getting crazy about getting ready – the ‘oh, I’ve got to lose 10 pounds,’ or ‘we have to paint the living room before she gets here.’ None of that.  She’s just coming and we’re going to get to be sisters.  It’s finally happening.

“At least we know what she looks like because of facebook and stuff.  She looks almost exactly like my mom.  And a few days ago, I got to talk to her on the phone.  You know what she said?  She said she’s always had this weird feeling that she has a twin.  I’ve had that feeling, too!  My whole life.  I knew about her and all, but it was more than that.  Just imagine all the things we’re going to find out we have in common even though she’s 10 years older.

“Wow. This kind of stuff only happens in movies.  But not this time.  This time it’s happening to us.  It’s true life, now.”

Julie looked at her phone. “Look at that — half-way charged already.  That’s enough to get me through the next hour.”  She pulled the plug from the wall just as her phone rang.  “Peppermint?” she said.  “OK.  I’ll bring it.”  She turned my way one more time.

“Gotta get my mom some tea.  Then it’s off to my future.”  If it’s possible, Julie was glowing even more brightly as she tucked her charger and cord into her bag.  “Now I’ll have a big sister for the rest of my life.”

Julie reached her had toward me.  She introduced herself and asked my name.  Then she shook my hand for a long time.  “Thank you,” she said.  “I thank you,” I said back.


  1. I love the way you write. I love my life especially when it intersects with your stories! Thank you, Mary, my heart is full.

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