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Monday, February 15, 2010

My sister, my friend

(Before I came along)

She was nine years old when her baby sister was born. Until that day, she had been the baby of the family. So it wasn't unexpected that she would be a little jealous of the newcomer. She tells me that I was like a baby doll to her and our older sister. That when I came into her life she had to quit piano lessons (but that she was secretly glad). My earliest memory of us together was asking for a drink of water (I was too little to reach the hand pump in the farmhouse kitchen, much less make the water come out of it). Mom was too busy to get it for me and asked my sister to do it. She did...and then she poured it down the front of my dress. I cried of course, and I think she got yelled at....or smacked...depending on how loudly I caterwauled. My sister also liked to tickle me until I cried, gasping for mercy from her devilish hands. I think she enjoyed every minute. Paybacks in her mind?


I was the spoiled rotten baby. My mom was thirty-nine years old when I was born and worn out from a life of hard times and harder work. My dad was almost sixty-three. We were his second family. My second clearest memories are when I was about five or six. Being a brat, I'm sure I deserved many a spanking, but I always ran to Daddy and he would say, "Now don't you whip that baby." This had to be frustrating to my sisters and my mother, to say the least, because I got by with murder. But they had a plan. When Dad would leave and I misbehaved, my sisters would chase me as I ran away from them around the house. One would go one way, and the other the opposite direction and trap me between them. Then I would get a much-deserved spanking. I don't remember it hurting very much, but I must have screamed like a banshee. On the other hand, they also protected me from our mean old rooster, without regard for getting flogged themselves.

(Mom, me, my sister)

When I was almost seven, I remember there was a lot of crying going on in our house. My sister, our mother, even our dad. Daddy begged her not to marry her boyfriend...that he was no good. But she was "in trouble", and more than likely she wanted to get away from home and work. She got married on her sixteenth birthday, standing in our aunt's house while our uncle said the words over them. I would like to report that it all worked out, but Daddy was right. He was a very good judge of character. In those days, you stuck it out in a bad marriage, and she did for ten long years and with three little kids. Without enough education, it was hard to see a way out.


After our dad died, Mom and I were living in a small house in the small village where we had moved when Dad got sick and they sold the farm to my brother. My sister and her family moved next door to us. I hated it! I had to help with the kids and she was always bossing me around. My favorite sentence was "You're not my mother!"  Of course I deserved everything she tried to do to rein me in. I was ten and running all over town on my bicycle, staying at my friends' houses, hardly ever coming home except to eat. Poor Mom! What I did to her she never let on to me. She was worried to death about finances. She didn't drive, didn't have a job and we had very, very little to live on. She took in laundry and ironing to bring in a little extra money. And none of our family was in any position to help out, especially my sister. She was in almost the same boat herself.


Then there were big changes. Mom met a recent widower, married him shortly thereafter, and we moved to the country. In a few more years, my sister finally got enough courage to leave her husband. She eventually remarried; well, more than once.


Her second husband taught her the pizza business and she is still making and selling pizzas today. And they're darned good, too!

(Taken in 1975)



Her third husband taught her to never "look for love in all the wrong places."


Her fourth and last husband is the "finally" one. Finally, she found someone who treats her with the respect and love and caring that she deserves. And yes, she more than deserves it.


She's a smart business owner and a talented artist. She loves dogs, especially Yorkies. She loves Elvis and saw him twice in concert and still has all his albums. She likes to drive fast (all of us Jenkins siblings do!). She has a green thumb and grows the most beautiful roses. She hates winter and loves living in Florida. She's been rich and she's been poor, but she always treats people the same. She's a straight shooter...you never have to wonder what she's thinking or if she's being honest with you. She's a hard worker and doesn't cut any slack for anyone who isn't. Her loyalty is fierce, but if you lie to her, watch out.  She shares our mother's birthday...thirty years apart...mom 22 years gone. She can be tough; but she's also very sentimental and cries at the drop of a hat. She gives the best hugs.


From being my nemesis when I was a little girl (only a few times) and the scourge of my life (my perception) when I was a teenager, she became my best friend, one of my staunchest allies, a shelter when the tragedies of life seemed too big to overcome. I hope she knows that I love her with all my heart.

(Judy in 2008)


Happy Birthday, dearest Judy....my sister, my friend.

Love, Me



(This song in no way represents our relationship other than the fact that I'm her little sister and she loves Elvis.)









45 comments:

Deborah said...

Oh Susan, that brought a big lump to my throat! Lucky you and lucky Judy, to be such close sisters. This is a wonderful birthday present to her, and a great story for your readers. It's very interesting to know more about you - and your story reads like a book. My, what hard times the family had!!
Thanks for sharing such a personal story with us. And Happy Birthday to Judy, too!

VioletSky said...

This makes me wish I had a sister.
It also makes me glad I didn't!

Susan said...

Deborah, I'm so lucky to have Judy as a sister. Our dear sister Jane passed away in 2008 and it made us realize that our relationship was even more precious, so we do all we can do to preserve it. Sometimes hard times can make a family even closer.

Susan said...

Sanna Believe me, the love between us and the good times far outweigh my little nit-picky greivances of things past. I wouldn't trade my sister for the world.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Now dang it, you always make me cry. That was just beautiful, and I love learning more about you and your family. You a brat? No! I hope you share more stories with us. That was wonderful.

Susan said...

Sandy, I think you must cry as easily as my sister and I do. ;)

Thank you for the encouragement and I do plan to share more stories about my wonderful family in the months ahead.

Ruth said...

The story you wrote is full of great examples of those sneaky wormy reasons we can't live with family and can't live without them either. When you can survive all those battles and love each other as you do, the bond is unbreakable. I love your humor and voice, Susie. I'm sure Judy adores you too and loves this birthday gift. She is beautiful, and I would love to sit and have lunch with both of you.

Happy Birthday, Judy!

Susan said...

You're so right, Ruthie. Every person who has a family sometimes has a love/not-so-much-at-any-given-moment relationship with other members. That the love side far outweighs the other is a testament to the foundations of that family.

Judy IS beautiful! And unlike me, she never leaves the house without her hair done!

That would be a great and very interesting lunch! :)

California Girl said...

Hi Susan! Wonderful tribute to your sis. Her story, and yours, is compelling. Four husbands, wow. my mother's mother had 4 husbands and, w/ the exception of the first one, Mother's dad, my grandmother supported the rest of the bums. Some women have a hard time picking guys. Your mom does sound like she had it tough. But, look who she raised!

nice nice piece. xo

CottageGirl said...

Wow Susan ...
What a story about your sister ... and YOU!

How hard it must have been on your mother to loose her husband and then be faced with having little money to raise a daughter while supporting another.

I love the stories of your growing up and how you got away with things because you were the baby and later how you were expected to help out! What an eye-opener for one so young.

Difficult times can make or break the soul, but you and your sister have shown what hearty stock you're both made from.

What a lovely tribute to a remarkable woman!

Happy birthday, Judy ... And congratulations on having such a great sister!

Wanda said...

Susan, I read your story with such interest, knowing the rivalry between young sisters, I have two!
But in my case I am the oldest, I was 7 when my youngest sister was born and her name is Judy!

Happy birthday to your Judy!

Natalie said...

So much love and honesty. And this proves that real love can handle the honesty, the good and bad.
Thank you for telling your story.

Judy said...

Having an older sister too, I enjoyed reading your story!

ds said...

I have no sisters, but thanks to you I now know what I'm missing. Beautifully done, Susan! Beauty, bravery, intelligence & resourcefulness are clearly the defining traits of Jenkins women (mom, too). Thanks so much for sharing this; I hope you'll give us more.
Happy Birthday, Judy!

Oliag said...

Such a beautiful birthday tribute to your sister ... it made me laugh and and feel sad at the same time. You are fortunate to have each other...

I always did find that my sister and I got along much better when we didn't actually live with each other:)

...I hope you are writing your family history down...what you have shared has the feel of a Steinbeck story...

Susan said...

Cali Girl, you know, as bad as we had it, we were better off than some people. We had a roof over our heads and food on the table and I don't ever remember thinking we were poor. And let's face it, there just weren't as many "things" to want or to think we needed back then. I feel very forunate to have the family that I was given.

Susan said...

And, Cali Girl, I forgot to say thank you.

Susan said...

Dear CG, thank you. My sisters, my mother and I are good examples of the saying "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger". Life makes you strong and tough...the hard part is keeping the compassion and understanding and we had an excellent teacher in our mother.

Susan said...

Wanda, I always like to read about the dynamics between sisters, too. I don't think there's anything like the love between them. They may fight like cats and dogs, but just let someone hurt one of them and the others jump in like a mamma lion protecting her cub! I'm glad you have a good relationship with your sisters.

Susan said...

Natalie, thank you for listening and understanding that when life happens, sisters stick together.

Susan said...

Thanks, Judy! It's so funny, but the very first time you left a comment on my blog, I thought you were MY sister Judy and was going on and on with "Sis" this, and "Sis" that. I realized my mistake later and went back and corrected it. You even have the blonde hair!

Susan said...

ds, it IS too bad that you've missed out on having your own sister. Maybe you could adopt one or two to make up for it. :)

Thank you for the sweet compliments and I will pass along your birthday wishes, along with everyone else's, to Judy. She will be touched.

Susan said...

Oliag, I thought of you when I was writing this and the common bond we have of losing a dear sister. I am so fortunate that I still have Judy and my brother, too.

Yes, we would probably kill each other if we lived together 24/7! :)

I'm not much of a writer, so what you see here is what you get. There will be more to come.

Judy said...

My Sister, you have made me laugh and made me cry and this is the most wonderful gift you could have ever have given me. You are a wonderful Sister and I love you with all my heart, thanks for being the person that you are and loving me through all the tickles, squeak toys and the boss-e-ness, It seems you just keep getting better and better with your writing. I really don't think anyone could do a better job writing this story than you did. Thank you for your LOVE.
I also thank all of your friends for their birthday wishes.

Susan said...

My dear darling "Florida" sister, I'm happy I made you laugh and sad that I made you cry. But it only seems fair, since I cried most of the time that I was writing this. We share everything, right? :)

I didn't have any choice about being your sister, but I would choose you time and time again as my friend. Thank you for your sweet words.

Love you always.

culdesacchronicles said...

What a wonderful birthday tribute for your sister. Much of your family background is similar to my own. I was the baby too and the older siblings resented a few tiny things. Ha!
Your sister sounds like quite a woman. Has anyone ever mentioned a resemblance to Paula Deen? Lovely post, Susan.

Susan said...

Thank you, Bella. It seems we have more than a few things in common! :)

No one has ever mentioned Judy looking like Paula. Maybe it's the hair! Judy is much more reserved than Paula seems to be. She does like butter, though! ;)

steviewren said...

Susan, What a great tribute to your big sister! I love it.

I looked up your post on your collection. Your Japanese pitchers are some of the most colorful I've ever seen. And the fact the you found them at the Goodwill is amazing as well. Too many antiquers here for me to find much of anything that nice at the thrift stores.

You may already know this but before 1921 Japanese pottery was marked using the official name of Japan, Nippon. From 1921 to 1945 pottery was marked made in Japan. From 1945 to 1952 it would say occupied Japan. Your pieces are probably worth a pretty penny.

Alaine said...

I'm sitting here crying too, Susan! A beautiful story of love for a lovely sister - I love her hair! Happy Birthday, Judy!! Hugs to you both. I always wanted a sister but it didn't happen.

Cindy said...

How great to have a big sister to look out for you. I always wanted a sister to be close to. I have three older brothers and a younger sister who's autistic.

You made me cry... again! A very nicely written tribute to your sis!

My verification word: worse ?

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Beautiful tribute to your sister.

Elle Bee said...

Oh how I adore this post! What a lovely way to give a multi-dimensional perspective of someone's life. It's such an honest and loving tribute to a sis who is obviously so special to you. Nice writing, Susan. I loved it.

Susan said...

Stevie, thank you.

All of the creamers are marked Made in Japan and two have a manufactuer's hallmark, but they're so faded that I can't quite make out the word. One of those has a crown cupped in two hands. I'll try to do some research and get back to you. I actually found a couple of them at antique stores, but for practically nothing.

Susan said...

Awww, Alaine, you have such a soft, sentimental heart. :)

Isn't Judy's hair pretty? It's really soft, too. For years and years, she bleached her hair...in fact, she always teased me about being adopted because I was the only sister who didn't. Now it's that beautiful silvery white.

Sisters of the heart are very close to being the real thing...I have a few of those kind, too. XOXO

Susan said...

Cindy, I bet you are an awesome big sister to yours. Did your brothers protect you and drive you crazy at the same time? My brother is almost 20 years older than I, so he was kind of a distant presence in my life.

Hmmm, I wonder...worse than what? hehe

Susan said...

Thank you, Natashya.

Susan said...

Thank you, Elle. You're so very kind.

Judy didn't get a chance to read it until late that night and her husband told me that he just sat and patted her while she sobbed. She was very touched.

Cora said...

Such a lovely tribute to your sister...the photos are great and I can see the love between the two of you...hard times render to sweet memories and lasting friendships that only sisters can have.

Kathleen said...

What an awesome birthday tribute to your sister. I'm the youngest of 9 girls and can definitely relate to the special and at times challenging relationships that sisters have!

Susan said...

Thank you, Cora. Yes, love runs much deeper than any little hurt that might have been inflicted or perceived when we were children.

Susan said...

Kathleen, WOW, nine girls!! Were you all in the house at one time? That must have been extremely challenging for your parents, to say the least. I can't even picture those dynamics! Lucky you to have 8 best friends!

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Oh my GOSH Susan, the love you have for your big Sis, pours off the page! Well written words bring to life such pictures in my head! I'd think you did your sister proud, such a nice tribute!

Your blog is evolving into one of my very favorite reads.

Susan said...

Jackee, you are so sweet that I just want to come up there and give you a big hug! Thank you very much for those kind words. I'm so happy to call you my friend and I hope someday we will be able to meet. ((hugs))

stacybuckeye said...

Your words brought tears to my eyes. And made me wish I had a sister. Do you take honrary sisters?

Susan said...

Stacy, I would love to have a little sister like you! My heart is big enough for lots of sisters, and I've always wanted one with whom I could discuss books! :)

(((hugs))