Saturday, February 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Lawana

Dearest Lawana,

Happy 50th Birthday. Truthfully I can’t believe you’re 50. It simply doesn’t seem possible, therefore I’ll begin by saying you are beautiful. You’re one of those lucky people that gets prettier with age.

Do you know I can hardly remember a time when you weren’t part of my life? I’ve been thinking about that for a few weeks. I remember in forth grade telling my classmates that the black girl with the big hair in high school was my sister Diane’s friend. I felt some how that I was of the exotic persuasion since I was personally familiar with a black girl. A few years later when you were Michael’s girlfriend I happily rebuked my classmates with, “She’s not black, she’s Mexican.” I was the one with the low-down on your ethnicity and took a lot of pride in that. Someone asked if I was sure your weren’t black and I again proudly declared, “of course I’m sure. She’s my brother’s girlfriend.”

Years went by… You got a job at US Motors and you often came to our house after work. About the time you should be arriving, I’d stand at the window between the stove and the TV watching for you. I loved the nights you stayed over. Life was so much more interesting with you around to break the monotony of an otherwise boring evening. We played Rummy, watched Sydney Moncrief and the Arkansas Razorbacks, and ate Mama's cheesecake. Yeah, we even ate better when you were around. I know now that us always present little girls were probably the bane of your visits, but I never knew it. Thank you for that. You were kind, gentle and accepting and although I never could have articulated it, I loved you for that. You were a “safe place” for me and there weren’t a lot of those in my young life.

Did you know that the first theatre movie I ever saw was one that you and Michael took me to? I have a feeling that wasn’t Michael’s idea of a good time. Thank you for the way you included me.

You finally married my brother and honored me by asking me to be a candle-lighter at the wedding. I was scared nearly to death but felt very honored. Thank you.

Our time together increased after you and Michael married. You were around lots and I loved that. Your presence made my life so much better. Everyone seemed happier and put their best self forward when you were around. You made our home happier.

As a maturing adolescent, you became a teacher of the grown-up things I would never have asked another soul. Again, you were my safe place. I remember you, Stacie and me sunbathing on the carport roof. Do you remember that? It was there I learned that oral sex wasn’t about talking dirty. I screamed two or three times, horrified. You laughed.

It was probably around the same time that Weatherby’s (our country “corner” store) started carrying pornography. Playgirl is the one that grabbed my attention. I’m sure you recall me sneaking around and opening one. Just as soon as I opened it, I let out a yell of horror and threw it. You laughed so hard your shoulders shook and your eyes watered. Again you were my safe place.

Years past and I finally got my first hand experience with sex. When I got pregnant with Stephanie I was so sick. I threw up constantly, or so it seemed. I remember you coming into my bedroom. I don’t know if you already knew I was pregnant or not, but I told you. You laid down beside me and tears were in your eyes. You put your arms around me. I don’t know if you cried because of the horrible predicament I was in or because I was so sick or both, but your empathy meant so much to me. You handled the situation so rightly. I look back now and marvel at your young wisdom. Thank you, Safe Place.

When I went into labor, who did I call to find out if the things happening were normal? It was you. We didn’t talk a whole lot about those kinds of things so I was uncomfortable. But again, you were safe to approach. Thank you.

Finally we were peers and I was old enough to be an equal. I loved all those times when the four of us would hang out. I never knew what I had until I didn’t have those relationships so close by. Oh if you knew how much I miss you. I’d love to have that kind of casual time again. When I imagine moving back there, one of my favorite imaginings is “double dating” with you and Michael. I want to call you up and say “you wanna go see a movie?” I daydream about things like that.

Lawana, you’ve brought so much to our family and my life. You have always been a safe place for me. You still are. Even in recent years when I’d lose my mind with grief, you always shed tears with me. Thank you.

I love you and thank God for you. You are a wonderful sister. Maybe soon we can go see a movie, just the four of us. I look forward to that.

Happy Birthday.



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Blogger Jones said...

That's absolutely beautiful. I'm sure she's very moved by reading it. She sounds like a very special person.

February 10, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Valerie, what can i say - you bless me so with your kind and loving memories. The fun times that we had - i too loved coming over to your house and watching basketball and eating rotel - playing games.. I recall once to be aware that Curt was an ole Bear and to expect the worst from him. I sat on the edge of my chair - ready for anything- I found him to be nothing more than a regular Dad, and an ole bear :) I love having my memory stirred - through the good times and the bad times, high times and sad times - i thank you for having this black lady in your family! (i mean mexican) Seriously I love you and thank you! Can't wait till we can go out to dinner and a movie!
Love Lawana

February 10, 2008 at 9:35 PM  
Anonymous *mindi* said...

valerie, thank you so much for helping to create such a sweet gift for Mom. her reaction was priceless and she really was so blessed to read so many sweet tributes.

Dad has declared that Mom must be some kind of saint after all the sweet letters, and thinks we must declare a special day for "Saint Squeeky". ;-)

February 11, 2008 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was so beautiful!

P.S. It was me you called the other day looking for Chris. I gave him the message. :)

February 15, 2008 at 11:38 PM  

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