Sisters

Big sister Laura holding baby sister Cathy on her christening day in 1959. That's at out great-grandmother's house in Russellville, and I still have the chair that went with the couch.

Big sister Laura holding baby sister Cathy on her christening day in 1959. That’s at our great-grandmother’s house in Russellville, and I still have the chair that went with the couch. I’m guessing early summer by my tan – and my necklace that was a gift from some neighbor boys for my first dance recital. I’m 3. She’s 5 or 6 months.

My sister and I are walk-through-fire-for-each-other sisters. We’ve gotten through enough hard times together that we know we can survive anything together.

And, yes, we realize we’re lucky to have such a relationship. Hard for us to fathom, but not everyone gets along with siblings.

I loved her from Day 1. Heck, I even named her. As an only for three years and four months and the first grandchild on Mother’s side, I had my day in the spotlight and was ready to share.

Posing in our grandparents' backyard in Russellville in 1961, I think. I'd be 5 and Cathy 2. We were hot stuff.

Posing in our grandparents’ backyard in Russellville in 1961, I think. I’d be 5 and Cathy 2. We were hot stuff.

She drove me crazy at times, as little sisters do, but that didn’t come until later. We never even really fought.

We did have  to share a bedroom until we moved to the “big” house in Indian Hills the end of my fifth-grade year (the third bedroom before then always had to be a den/TV room). That caused most of the few problems I had with a pesky little sister – Cathy was oblivious that there was a problem. If I had a friend over to play and we shut her out of the bedroom, she’d beat on the door and yell, “Let me in! I want to play.”

Mother always made me let her in – “You can’t shut her out of her own bedroom, and she just wants to be like you,”  she’d say, adding that it was a compliment.

Sigh. We mostly played outside, though, which eliminated that problem.

I do remember being super-annoyed when we’d go on trips and Cathy would insist on putting her feet in my lap or leaning on me. Mother, however, would abide no “She’s touching me,” or “Cathy’s got her feet on me again!” Nope, “She’s your little sister,” Mother would say. “She’s not hurting you. Be sweet.”

After we had the big den on Blackhawk Road, I often got stuck cleaning up messes made by Cathy and her friends. If I tried to say that wasn’t fair – by now you can guess how far that got me.

Sure, I teased her and told her lots of crazy stuff as if it were true – she was very gullible – but I never really picked on her.

I also got lots of spankings up to a certain age – generally for sassing but sometimes for running off, doing something crazy/dangerous – and Cathy never did. After we were older, she told me she found it easy to stay out of trouble; she just watched what I did and didn’t do it. Smart girl, that baby sis.

She always had my back, too. Never tattled, covered for me when I needed covering, and thought everything I did was cool or worth copying. She trusted me to pierce her ears. (Nearly killed me to poke holes in my sister, even though I’d done lots of other lobes. Almost fainted, as in had to put my head between my knees. I retired from that after her ears.)

I cut her hair when she wanted a shag in junior high. That’s trust.

The back of this photo says "The Robert L. Cartwright Family: Bob, Willette, Laura and Cathy 1970." I think it was early enough in the year that Daddy's 36, Mother 34 and Cathy 11. I'm 14.

The back of this photo says “The Robert L. Cartwright Family: Bob, Willette, Laura and Cathy 1970.” I think it was early enough in the year that Daddy’s 36, Mother 34 and Cathy 11. I’m 14.

Fortunately, we never had to fight about clothes, as many sisters do. The age and size differences were too great. And her feet passed mine by just enough to keep her out of my shoes. But, lordy, when it came to my makeup (which I bought myself) and accessories, did she ever help herself.

Her best friend and neighbor across the street, Connie, even ’fessed up to tell me they liked to wear my retainer when I wasn’t home.

“Gross! Mother!!”

That one Mother did back me on – retainers were expensive.

Cathy and Connie on my 15th birthday. That's our driveway on Blackhawk, and Connie's holding my kitten, Ben, one of many strays I brought home.

Cathy and Connie on my 15th birthday. That’s our driveway on Blackhawk, and Connie’s holding my kitten, Ben, one of many strays I brought home.

By comparison, that's me a month later (holding Pam's kitten, Peanut). Dig the short white Levi's and chukka boots. Oh, I'm standing in front of the Crownover's house next door, for some reason. Looks like Pam took the photo from the shadow.

For size comparison, that’s me a month later (holding Pam’s kitten, Peanut). Dig the short white Levi’s and chukka boots. Oh, I’m standing in front of the Crownover’s house next door, for some reason. Looks like Pam took the photo from the shadow.

Only two times do I remember being really upset about “borrowing” episodes. The first one I’d willingly loaned her my first good watch to wear to a party. She’d asked and everything.

But afterward, when she came in and tossed it to me, saying, “Here’s your watch. It doesn’t work anymore,” and walked out, I was stunned. Still don’t know what happened to it and can’t remember the outcome.

In retrospect, I have to respect her punkitude. Rare for little sister.

I’m pretty sure that was my Elgin, something I’d really wanted and had gotten for Christmas. I don’t remember if it was before or after I broke it myself at a New Year’s Eve party – but it worked when she left with it. (I do hazily remember how I broke it, but we won’t go into that. The New Year’s Eve event was definitely Blackhawk years and Cathy covered for me in an uber-big way. Owe you, kiddo.)

But it could have been a different watch and we could have already moved to Wewoka. Time blends together 40 years later.

The one time I really had a meltdown, though, was over some expensive-ish kohl makeup I’d splurged on. It came in little clay pots and was supercool. I can’t remember the brand. I’ve looked and looked but can’t find it online, though it did look something like this little pot from the late 1970s. indwebready I’d gotten some sparkly cobalt blue eyeliner and  blush. Maybe black eyeliner, too.

I did find this cool magazine page touting the look. I might've had a turban, too.

I did find this cool magazine page touting the look. I might’ve had a turban, too.

Let me add that I was a heavily plucked eyebrows and mascara-only girl from about 16 on, except for special occasions. And since the fancy kohl stuff was in clay pots, I couldn’t tell that it was disappearing at an alarming pace.

One night was a special occasion – don’t remember what it was, but I was ready to get dolled up, ready to roll, when I discovered my little clay pots were empty!

“Mother!!!”

That one time Mother bought me replacement makeup. Guess I made do with mascara that night.

Shortly thereafter I married too young, too quickly, too foolishly, and shortly after that Cathy married obscenely young, at 19. We grew closer every day even though we lived apart.

Hardship draws you together and blood is definitely the tie that binds. Though I’m designated “the strong one,” I count on her for more than she knows.

She’s got my back, and I’ve got hers. We’re the Cartwright girls through thick and thin.

Love you, kiddo.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Sisters

  1. This is so sweet. The pictures are priceless and I used to have that coal makeup too. It was the “thing” for awhile. xoxo

  2. Hi Sis, wow, you know just what to say & do when I need it most. But… Now I think mostly I owe you a watch & some eye khol:) I have no memory of the watch. I do remember how cool the little clay pot was. I guess a little to cool for me to resist!
    I’m so lucky to have you as my sister and closest confidant. Love you big-time.

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