I was pretty a pretty messy little girl. When I drew, I got India ink all over my fingers, which spread to my face and arms. When I was outside, I got grass stains on my knees, manure on my shoes, and burrs in my hair. I was unconscious about how I looked most of the time. My next younger sister, Bonita, who eighteen months younger was my partner in crime and my best sister-friend. Deanna, who is just 13 months older than me was more than a friend, she was my idol, someone who I wanted to be just like some day. Besides, Bonita let me be in charge, and with Deanna, there was no question, she was the boss. She was the oldest.
Deanna went over to Cleta’s or to Nancy’s and played indoor games, or watched old movies on TV. She especially liked musicals, with the words to the songs running along the bottom of the TV screen and a little bouncing ball landing on each syllable, so Deanna could sing right along with the movie stars. Mitch Miller had a show like that at night called Sing Along with Mitch. I like Mitch alright, but I hated those movie musicals. I learned a lot of songs from Mitch, like Yellow Rose of Texas, and Knick-knack-paddy-whack Give a Dog a Bone, and Five Foot Two-Eyes of Blue, but those songs in the movies just made the story go so darned slow, I kept thinking, stop all the dancing and singing so I can see what happens next, and then my legs got twitchy and I had to get outside and play. My legs never got twitchy when I was reading a book; I could sit for hours with my head in a book. Somehow, movies were different, probably ’cause there’s hardly any singing in a book to slow things down, and when there are songs, I could just read over them fast in my head, and get on with the story.
Deanna hated Barn Chores ’cause it made her hair smell like hay and straw and cows and cats. I liked that smell, and sometimes just smelled my hair when I was watching tried to watch The Loretta Young Show on TV. Mom said Loretta Young was a big movie star when she was younger just like Fred MacMurray from My Three Sons. Maybe, but they just looked like more old people to me. I wished I could sit still and learn all about those movie stars, and pretty clothes like Deanna did. Deanna paid good attention to what people wore and she knew what looked good together and what didn’t. Sometimes she told me to change my clothes, ’cause I was all mis-matched. I found out a little trick to help me more fashionable. After Deanna picked out a pattern for a dress, I just told Mom I wanted the same dress as Deanna, which made Deanna a tinsy bit proud, but mostly mad, ’cause she said people weren’t supposed to wear the same clothes as their sister. I didn’t know that, so I asked Mom to make the same dress just a different color.
Most of my growing up, I not only shared a bedroom with Deanna, we slept in the same double bed. Sometimes we talked and talked until Mom shouted up, “Go to sleep.” It was way easier to talk with the lights off. Deanna knew stuff I wanted to know too, like how to blow super-big bubbles and without getting the bubble gum in her hair.
“Just suck it in before it pops,” she said to me. I could hear her click her tongue in the back of her mouth and I knew she was giving me that look, just like Mom did when she thought I should know something already. Man-o-man, Deanna could look like Mom even in the dark. She was right though, ’cause once I started sucking in those bubble, it seemed so obvious I wondered why I had to ask anyone at all. I could figure a lot of things out all on my own, but keeping myself neat seemed like something I would never learn. I found out in school that most dirt has a negative charge to it, and opposite charges attract. Maybe I got so dirty all the time, ’cause I had a positive charge.
I never even noticed how dirty I got playing outside all day, and how many scratches I got on my arms and legs until I got ready for bed at night. Then Deanna said, “Look at your feet. You’re not getting into bed with me until you wash those feet, and brush the burrs out of your hair, too. I don’t want them getting in my hair.”
As soon as water hit my legs and arms, little red scratches I never knew were there, popped up like magic all over the place. It was sure a good thing I had somebody around who paid attention to stuff like that. Otherwise, I’d be walking around looking mis-matched, dirty, and bubble gum in my hair every day of my life. I’m pretty sure I could never depend on Bonita for that kind of advice. She wore long jeans all summer long ’cause she thought that would turn her into a boy, and even I knew boys don’t know anything about style. That’s why they wear crew-cuts and nothing but jeans and t-shirts, so they never need to think about looking nice.
Deanna is still the most beautiful woman I know, next to Mom who had a head start. People tell me that I look just like my sister, but it’s hard for me to see the resemblance. Deanna looks good all dolled-up for a wedding, on a camping trip, and when she comes home from work after a long day being a nurse. I asked her once how does keep her make-up looking so nice all day long. “RE-Apply,” she said, and she made that clicking noise in the back of her throat and gave me that look like I should know things like that. I tell you, she looked just like Mom. I packed myself a little mesh bag of cosmetics, just like I saw on The View, and put in my purse so I’d be ready mid-day. Do you think I can remember to look in the mirror? Guess again.