my sister darlene, canon 50d

I have a very clear memory of my sister when I was around 5 years old and she was 15. I may not have the exact ages right but I know she was a teen and I was a little girl. We are 10 years apart.

My arms and legs were dangling from the posts of our staircase and my bum on one of the top steps. Darlene was down below in our living room, sitting in a circle with some of her friends, both boys and girls. She had long straight hair parted in the middle. Bell bottom jeans with her art sewn on the fabric here and there. A flowy pheasant shirt. Frosted eyelids that accentuated her gorgeous green eyes. She was the more exotic and sensual version of Marcia Brady. There she sat, strumming her guitar, singing with her friends...all of them so totally enamoured with her. And so was I. That memory burned so deep into my soul. I was a young girl inspired. Inspired to live a life of not being afraid to express who I was, knowing it was okay to be unique. A young girl always attracted to the Bohemian lifestyle, the hippies, the granolas, the ones who sat in circles with their friends expressing their passion in some form of art rather than just talking. I am not sure if Darlene knows how strong her influence was on me in that moment.

She has been such a nurturing soul in my life. I have a plethora of memories where she swept me up and protected me with her big sister wings at a time when I needed that security. When my first love and I were parked outside of her house and broke up because he was going away to college, I remember running inside and going to Darlene...in her bedroom and laying on her bed, weeping on her chest. We laid there for hours, talking through all of my emotions. She told her husband to take care of the kids, so she could help me through this. I think she even went outside to comfort my boyfriend, knowing he was still parked in his car, weeping on his dash board. Another memory burned into my soul.

I would spend many weekends at her house during and right after High School. So many nights sitting on her bathroom floor together, playing with her make-up, smelling all her smelly lotions and her daughter Angela brushing my hair. Darlene has always taken such wonderful care of her skin. Even when they hardly had a cent to their name, she always had saved up for that quality product that would sustain her youth. She started this in her teens and look at her now. Her skin is so smooth and youthful...that of a classic beauty.

I don't know how many times I stayed at her house to nurture me back to health after an accident. Accident prone Denise. Running through a sliding glass door and slicing my leg deep, totalling my brand new cabriolet and bruising my body, whacking my head on her son's bed and having a concussion...so many more. She was there despite the fact that in her early twenties she had a baby and a toddler. I was never made to feel like a burden. She wanted me there, she demanded it on those days when my sweet marmie had to work. She cut my hair, she gave me perms, she hemmed my pants, she made me dresses for my mission trips, she was even my youth pastor at one time!

I have so many precious memories of Darlene and the very important role she had in my life at such a crucial time for a young woman. Those memories have solidified an unconditional love that never wavers.

Then in my early twenties, I had to do the baby sister thing and run off to prove myself. To claim my independence. To establish who I was and spread my wings. I moved far away to Texas (where she flew to when I had yet another broken heart, so she painted my apartment), then I moved back to San Francisco, to Berkeley, to Santa Barbara...always away and haven't ever fully returned home. Still flying, still exploring, still searching and claiming. Because of this, at times I felt a bit of a distance in our togetherness. I know to the world that would appear healthy and normal but I think Darlene and I both felt the ache of missing those times when I would show up at her door step with a broken heart and a scraped knee.

Throughout my needing to be independent, she was always supportive, asking billions of questions and learning about what I was into at that time in my life. While her kids were teenagers, I was far from the thought of having children. Although for years we have lived different lives, that kindred spirit between us held our connection, our humor and creative beings took flight together regardless.

The last few years, while going through (in)fertility, I had distanced myself. I didn't realize it at the time but looking back I see it more clearly. I know Darlene knew it all along but she never pushed me. I was the only woman in a huge Portuguese/French family that had experienced this. It was a running joke in my family how fertile everyone was and that not getting pregnant was the goal. I felt alone in these deeply painful emotions. With Darlene specifically, because so many times in my life she truly saw me and nurtured my pain. I was afraid for her to see just how deep my pain truly was. I was afraid that once I let the well open, it would never stop. So, I have been a bit guarded and protective of that space.

I didn't fully realize this until last week when Darlene was here. That space in me that I have held so tight and protected had broken down and released and opened up, allowing her to fully see me again. The beautiful thing was that I realized she was always there, waiting in the wings, waiting for me to be ready and re-open that door. Never pushing but just allowing me to figure it out on my own and open up when it felt safe for me.

The energy between Dar and I felt like those days when we sat on her bathroom floor and smelled all her smelly lotions but this time, it was Cedar we were admiring. ; ) So much more than a smelly lotion (that is for another post).

For so many years going through (in)fertility, it had been so painful to hear about those days when she was pregnant and then raising children but it didn't hurt any longer. I craved her stories. I asked her all about her babies and she asked me all about my work and as the days went on, I realized those walls I put up were no longer there. It was a moment at the coffee shop when she was telling me a story about her marriage in her mid twenties and I realized how soft my chest and belly felt and how wide open I was to what was transpiring between us. It was a familiar feeling that I had missed but didn't realize how much I missed it until that moment. My eyes welled up with tears and she stopped mid sentence and she came over to my chair and got on her knees and rubbed my legs and looked up at me asking me if I was okay. "I have missed this..." I said. "I have missed this."

Okay, I cannot write any more. My tears are filling and blurring my vision. So much more to say but so much of it can remain unspoken because I feel it deeply. She feels it deeply. It is a blessing. I now imagine myself walking down those steps as a little girl and sitting by her in the circle. Side by side, singing, celebrating, reveling. I never did that but wish I had and today I know I would join her.

Thank you Darlene for loving me the way you have, even during that short period in my life when I was afraid to fully receive it. You teach me patience and acceptance and unconditional love.