My sisters and I wearing our Comeback Tour T-shirts:
Patricia, Brenda, Joni (holding “flat” Vicki), Terry, and Nancy
As research for writing my memoir Moonlight on Linoleum, I invited my sisters* to join me on a trip to revisit some of the Texas oil towns where we grew up. All but Vicki, who wasn’t feeling well, accepted the invitation. Joni, not wanting Vicki to feel left out, made and brought along a cut-out doll which she named “flat” Vicki (pictured above in the stylish pink hat). Flat Vicki and the rest of us flew into Dallas to rendezvous at our sister Patricia’s house, where Patricia’s husband Don managed to secure for us a brand new rental van—great for us—but maybe not so great for the van. Twelve hundred miles later the van sported an array of bug Rorshachs on the windshield, a thick layer of caliche dust on the hood, and a weed dangling from the axel.
All to say, it was a trip of a lifetime!
My sisters Nancy and Brenda designed T-shirts printed with THE GIRLS’ Comeback Tour of Texas on the front and our itinerary on the back. We didn’t mind turning heads when we stopped to eat at corner cafes as locals strained to read our T-shirts, seeming to wonder if THE GIRLS were some group they might know, or maybe should know. Not likely. As children, we had haled from grassless trailer parks in most of the oil towns on our itinerary.
I asked each sister to bring the amber bead I had given her years earlier after visiting Africa. The African amber was meant to symbolize each sister’s unique individuality. The night before our trip, I strung our individual beads together to make a necklace symbolizing, not our individuality, but our common bond of sisterhood. That’s how I think of us—very different individuals committing to keep intact a circle of sisterhood; we are a sum greater than our parts.
The day our van shuddered down a rutted, unpaved road toward the Pecos River our necklace of sisterhood swayed mightily. I had wanted to locate the huge slabs of rock in the river where Daddy took us camping as children. Hours later, after studying maps and following hunches, we arrived at what looked to be the exact campsite Daddy scouted out more than four decades earlier. It was very near a ghost town called Pandale. We excitedly unfolded out of the van, stretched our stiff legs and stepped into the river. Our laughter and shouts echoed off the ancient shale-lined banks as we waded, undisturbed by the outside world, in the waters of our childhood. Time had radically changed me and my sisters, but it had barely brushed against the river and the stone.
Almost every sentence out of our mouths that week began with the words “Remember when….”
On the last day of our trip, Nancy steered down the highway while Brenda loaded one of our CDs into the player and cranked up the volume. We began to sway and sing, mostly off-key. Do-wah diddy-diddy down diddy-do. I looked from one bouncing sister to another. There was no doubt in my mind that our sisterhood was worth every hardship we had endured growing up. I knew our trip down memory lane would be invaluable to me as I worked on the memoir. For old time’s sake, I bought each sister her own chocolate malt. Naturally, I took a sip of each to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. The lengths a big sister will go to save her sisters.
Before parting, I snipped our necklace apart and returned each bead to its rightful owner. There is an old blessing that says the circle is open but unbroken. In my heart, the necklace of sisterhood remains forever intact.
* * *
* I actually have six sisters: Nancy, Vicki, Patricia, Brenda, Joni and Robin. However, Robin did not grow up with us; she was born in Iowa, seventeen years after I was born. She, Vicki and I share the same birthfather, and Robin’s mother is my stepmom Cathy—whom I love dearly. I also gave Robin an amber bead; she, too, is part of our necklace of sisterhood.