Friday, August 15, 2008

And Then There Were None

My little, little sister is on the road to college in Wisconsin, today. So strange. I left home when she was only 5 to go to college myself, and in many ways she is--in my mind--exactly the same little girl today. It's sort of how we remember high school or college friends, or anything in life, I suppose--one image, sound, or sensation frozen instantaneously in our minds, stuck on rewind forever.

When she was learning to talk I taught her to say "I cry, I sad, gimme money" in hopes of putting her to work on local city street corners. This was, literally, one of the first things she ever learned to say, and I was dutiful in teaching her. It was the cutest thing you ever did see.

She learned to climb the stairs very quick, always searching out her older brother and sister. She mastered every device to open cabinets and doors, including electricity (ha?). When I was in college she sent me a photo of the basement toilet at home, my favorite one, in a ziplock baggie, which I hung on my dorm wall. She has always been a smarty pants (not in the good sense, but I will allow this as being charming, for now), and has always, always known the right answer AND what you'll say even before you say it. Amazing, uncanny ability. Several years back my dad took off her bedroom door--my old room--because she refused to leave it open; I think it was off for many weeks.

She's a very decent soccer goalie and softball catcher, a talented photographer, and a true people person very much unlike the rest of the family, I think. I miss my college days with a pang akin to intense hunger, but I am accustomed to dining on ashes (I am a brooding poet). I know she will embrace and enjoy college from day one and won't let up, making the good mistakes we all need to make, and should make, to lead complete and deep lives. I know she will be an amazing person on the flip side. I know mom and dad won't know what to do with themselves in an empty house after, as my dad reminded me, 32 years and exactly one month of kids at home.

Somehow, in all of this change the last year--marriage, moving, grandmother's car accident and developing alzheimers, sister going to college, other sister moving to San Francisco--the monarch and swallowtail larva in the garden are the most appropriate, wonderful gift; they remind me of the elegant beauty and purpose of change, of becoming, of beginnings and ends, perfect designs curled under leaves ready and waiting to be fully born again, again, again.

Erich Fromm: “The whole life of the individual is nothing but the process of giving birth to himself; indeed, we should be fully born when we die.”

9 comments:

Anna said...

OH my--you sound like a parent and in so many ways you are to your little sister. She was so young when you left. She probably looks up to you also even though she might not admit it right now. I enjoyed your post today mostly because I've been going through children leaving my house for the last 4 years.

I love the quote too---I hope I'm fully born some day---I'm still working on it.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Anna--I AM the oldest child! It's so strange to feel as I do, being a brother, and being so far away, and in many ways not as close to her as I'd like. Life is complicated, and it all adds up to a pood, smoke, brief echo in the wind--so much struggle and emotion in an instant. For me, anyway, this has been an illuminating and terrifying thought the last few months. Thanks for getting me talking! :)

Frances, said...

Thanks for letting us in on your family life, Benjamin, we love you even more for it. Question, did she make any money on street corners from your excellent tutorage? Your parents must have been so proud. My brother was fourteen years older than me too, so I know how that feels. Your butterflies larvae from the last post are beautiful. We are still waiting for our first monarch, what the heck is going on? The eastern swallowtails have shown themselves though, so late it seems, but they are here to feast on the Joe Pye. Do you have that plant? Always a pleasure to drop by and visit at your place, thanks.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Frances--Always a pleasure to have you stop by! I'd leave comments on your blog, but am always intimidated by the 30 others on each post, and don't want to overwhelm you. Yes, I certainyl have Joe Pye, and five other kinds of eupatorium that are ready to bloom, plus caryopteris, many sedum, aster--all ready for the influx of butterfly and bees. So strange many are reporting fewer monarchs, but an earlier post of mine explains the number are down significantly this year. And I never had the guts to put my sis on a street corner, but I would today--why not? Only live once. My future kids will need much therapy as adults.

Frances, said...

Hi Benjamin, I would love to see a comment from you, I get an email each time and have taken away the moderation so you can see what you wrote immediately. I don't know why I didn't do that sooner. Anyway, remember that lots of those comments are my replies. I am hardly overwhelmed, as I live for each and every comment and love them all.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

As a fellow oldest child... your story about you teaching your little sister how to beg, and the paragraph preceding that, leads me to think about my two younger brothers, and the watershed moments I've had with each. But I'll spare you those thoughts. :)

I don't know that you should worry too much about your parents, though. We burned up the phone lines between Dayton and Cleveland, sharing our worries... and then discovered that Mom and Dad were hardly ever home to check up on when the worry got to be too much for us. So much for that! lol.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kim--Oh, to tell, were you as evil as me with your kid brothers?

Kylee said...

Ben, what a beautiful tribute to your sister, your parents, to life itself. I read it twice and it was as touching the second time as the first.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kylee--Oh thank you, that really makes me happy when my writing can have such resonance with people. Yes! I actually turned this into a short section for the book I'm writing, so we'll see how that goes.