My sister and I are very close. We’ve laughed, cried and shared life’s triumphs and tragedies as only sisters who are also best friends can. We’re “Irish twins” – just sixteen months apart – so it always surprises me when we discover we have differing memories of the same event. Even more surprising are the rare occasions when one of us doesn’t recall an incident that hangs heavily in the other’s memory.
Each year at Christmas, we treat ourselves to a long conversation, since we don’t get together for this holiday. This year, I asked her, “If you could go back and live one day over, which day would you pick?”
Neither of us could choose only one day. We started sharing favorite memories, some overlapping, others not…the choral concerts and plays…Halloween costumes and ice skating on frozen ponds…swimming lessons, camping stories, tea parties, favorite pets….
In the magic of the moment, ghosts of the past danced to life, and I was sitting on Dad’s lap as he read the Sunday comics to me and baking Christmas cookies with Mom once again.
At one point, Ellen said, “I wish I could go back and see Mom and Dad all dressed up to go out.” And there they were in the space between us, Mom young and lovely in her favorite turquoise dress and crystals, her mink stole wrapped around her shoulders, and Dad so handsome in his suit, wearing his favorite striped tie. For a moment, I could almost smell his aftershave -Old Spice – that he wore when going out.
The conversation was rich in treasured memories of days we’d want to relive, to cherish once again. But we each also had a “do-over” day…a day of regret hidden deep in our memory. A day we’d relive to retract the unkind or angry words that happened between us and our father before he died, suddenly and unexpectedly, when she was thirteen and I, fourteen.
The wonderful thing about sharing all of the memories, including our one “do-over” day that neither knew haunted the other, is that they helped give perspective. I know I was able to forgive myself in realizing that one hurtful sentence was but a grain of sand in a lifetime of loving Dad. He knew we loved him.
Dedicated to my sister, my friend.