My sister and I are bonded in that we were in the trenches together. In the battle-zone that was our household, we were witnesses to and casualties of the same war.
I am six years older than my sister. She arrived a little bit later in the war. She missed the early battles. Yet the thing is, memory-wise, she missed some of what she actually was there for. That is, when I talk to her about our childhood, she doesn’t remember a lot of it. She said it’s like a fog, she looks back and there’s nothing there, nothing she can clearly see.
I remember our childhood as violent, unstable, crazy, memories heated to point of blistering. My sister doesn’t remember it being that bad. I then wonder, with my penchant for dramatization and exaggeration, did I blow the whole thing out of proportion? A part of me needs it to be as scary and fucked-up as I remember it. Otherwise I feel some validity is lost, that my claims are the product of a faulty mind wired for fiction.
Then I reflect, and while yes I am prone to dramatization and exaggeration, I also clearly remember certain events and episodes that were the seeds of terror and turmoil.
My sister said she remembers very little about her childhood. Almost as if it hadn’t happened. I remember much about my childhood, and have spent a lot of time reimagining it. My childhood became the primary material I mined and converted into fiction. My sister didn’t mine or convert, she allowed her childhood to be swallowed in memory-devouring black holes.
My sister does vividly recall a specific incident of terror, in which my father, blitzed out of his mind, chased her and my mother down the block with a knife, and my sister and mother hid in the doorway between a couple of stores on the avenue.
My sister and I talk about this memory and laugh about it. When we swap other memories of a similar nature, we laugh about them too. It is the laughter of people who have gone through something together, who understand that the laughter is a salve, a release, a comfort, derived from sources of terror and anxiety. Laughter, born of fear, helps to dispel fear. It is the offspring that destroys its maker.
When my sister was younger she always wanted me to play with her. She would dump out her Care Bears or Strawberry Shortcake figures and ask me to play. Which I did. My sister, unlike me, hated playing alone. I loved playing alone, creating my own world with my action figures in which everyone and thing from reality was excluded. My sister always wanted to play with another person, to be alone and playing did not sustain her interest, nor did it bring her pleasure.
There was also a game we played called The Wizard of Oz. Basically, all we did was go under a sheet or blanket, eclipsing our “surface reality” as we entered the land of Oz. I’d become different characters, guide the action and narrate our adventures. I think what we both enjoyed most was the fact that we were hidden, that we were cocooned inside a magical world where reality couldn’t touch us.