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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Remembering the hammock

When my sister and I were growing up, summer meant reading excessively and obsessively. Jen and I would lie on the hammock in the backyard head to foot and gently sway under the shade of the maple trees, heads cocked to opposite sides and simply riveted by our books.

If the weather was bad, we’d hole in up our sunny yellow room with the hum of the window air conditioner and lie on our beds with our legs propped on the wall (I’m not sure why, but sometimes we’d stop reading to compare the size and shape of our legs).

Although we may have been in separate literary and imaginary worlds, we also were in perfect communion in our love of reading. We never stopped to shove a foot in each other’s face (as my boys are apt to do). I’m sure our compulsive reading exasperated my mom. She would shout out the back door, “Girls, please check the laundry!”

“In a minute, just have to finish this chapter,” we would respond. Now as a mother I realize the words “in a minute” can evoke rage, but then we thought it no big deal. It was nothing for us to read into the wee hours, suddenly erupting with laughter or sharing a passage aloud. We could pore through the entire V.C. Andrews collection in a week or two.

Jen and I could spend a part of every day silently perusing the library for our favorite authors or for anything that jumped at us from the shelves. It’s a habit she and I still have today. Any trip to a bookstore involves several hours, lots of quiet contemplation, careful selection and then the chance to share what we’ve found over coffee. I’m nearly through the pile of books I borrowed when I last visited her in April.

I miss her for many reasons, but for companionship above all.

We spent our childhood living together, sharing the same room. I was devastated when I learned that I would have a single room my freshman year in college. I had never had my own room and didn’t know how I felt about being alone in college. Now we live two-and-a-half hours away from each other. The hectic nature of our lives—with husbands, children, homes and jobs—means we don’t often get to see each other. Even when we do, there are myriad distractions keeping us from ever really having the chance to chat.

And so that’s how I found myself thinking about Jen and about summer’s past, while eating my yogurt on the deck, reading a bit of my book (her book, actually) and listening to the wind in the trees. It felt oh-so familiar like a summer day on the backyard hammock, and yet lonely, too. Guess I just need to talk to my sister.

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