My sister JT is only 360 days younger than I am; when we were kids, we were often mistaken for twins, something that I think tickled both of us no end. As preschoolers, we spent much of our time together, exploring out back in a field of mustard greens that were taller than we were.
Because there was no television in our world in those primitive times, we did not miss it. We had no problem occupying our time and knew better than to go to Mama complaining that we were bored. Believe me when I say Mama was quite adept at finding something for us to do, and it all started with a broom, a bucket of hot, soapy water and plenty of elbow grease, a commodity never in short supply in our home.
Mama had it delivered by the truckload because it was free.
JT and I played “store,” using “goods” set aside by Mama; we built forts using blankets, chairs, and the dining room table, and then colored in our coloring books or got out the Tinker Toys. Like most siblings who spent that much time together, we could fight like pit-bulls when the mood struck.
I lit many a fuse with my colorful nicknames for her, of which Miss Queen was the most memorable. Miss Queen, Queen, Queen Jean, or simply Queenie. Where did that come from? Poor JT. By the time she made her royal appearance in our little house on Fellowship Street, with its two bedrooms, there were already four older brothers in residence. Two more brothers would arrive before reinforcement (singular) finally arrived in the form of a little sister, Laura.
From the outset Papa established that he would not allow his first-born daughter to be trampled by her older male siblings. When I was seven, and JT six, in 1959, he added first a sizably larger kitchen onto the original house, and then a year later, a wing of the house that included a second bathroom and a bedroom for the four oldest boys, of which I was number four.
A second bathroom! Imagine my surprise when I found out that a new rule accompanied the construction of the second bathroom: boys would use the new facilities while the ‘rents shared the original bathroom with JT, and later, Laura.
The line had been drawn in the sand.
Of course, Papa made it perfectly clear why he acted the way he did: Girls were different and quite special, and deserved treatment accordingly. He never used the word “respect,” but that was what he was teaching us boys through his actions.
It must have been hard for JT, just as I can only imagine what it might have been like, had I arrived in the world with four older sister, with two more arriving before I got another bro. Heavens to Murgatroid!
JT and I shared responsibilities such as washing dishes and watching siblings, and as we got older, we occasionally banded together for support when a specific household rule or custom, needed an adjustment. Somewhere along the line our family got a television.
I remember the two of us approaching Papa because we wanted to raise our bedtime from 8:00 to 8:30, primarily to accommodate our watching Gilligan’s Island on Saturday nights. GI did not begin until 8:00, thus prompting the need for an adjustment.
I would have been twelve and JT eleven in 1964. Papa compromised by allowing us to stay up until 8:30 one night per week; we could choose the night. Duh. How about Saturday night?
Our school days were a curious mix of closeness during our elementary school years together at St. Martha’s, and just the opposite when we got to Bishop Amat High School. There I suddenly turned into an obnoxious, well, guy, I guess, who disdained hanging out with his little sister.
In retrospect, this was an unbelievably short-sighted approach, for a guy who lost out on the opportunity to come into contact with a bevy of what was in darn short supply at Bishop Amat High School: girls. You see, there was this invisible line through the center of campus, with the girls on the one side and the guys on the other. Never the twain was supposed to meet, because we did not have classes together.
I must have forgotten about lunchtime or before/after school, or those insignificant events such as sock-hops, sporting events and accompanying rallies and parties.
Matters shifted back to their original form when we both ended up attending first, Cal Poly, Pomona, and then, San Jose State, at the same time. College was an entirely different matter, especially when we actually lived in the same duplex for a year or two there, across the street from the San Jose State Library, she on the bottom floor, I on the top floor.
JT was my biggest supporter when I was in the military, writing me letters, including sending me a cassette tape I still have, with her waxing on about life on Fellowship Street during my absence, in 1972. We had little contact for much of the 80’s and 90’s, when I relocated to Bell Springs Road, and we both raised kids.
With the internet and email, we have reestablished our connection over the last seven years, and exchange letters weekly, and of course, see each other at family gatherings.
I wish we lived closer so that we could do things like cook and garden together, but probably, if we did, I’d start calling her mean names, and hog the garden tools and snag the good spatula. Or maybe not. After all, I am 64 and much more mature than I was as a little kid.
That being said, if we spent more time together, we could play cool games like, “Touch me in five seconds, when I say go, I will do the dishes for you for an entire week. On your MARK, get set… Go-Go Gomez! Ha Ha. OK, ready?
[Editor’s Note: Though it was actually JT who broke the lamp chasing me, I got the blame for instigating it. What else would one expect from Miss Queen? Besides, I am still recuperating from the knee injury I sustained.]
|Miss Queen in all her regalness|