|Norma Jean Stewart|
Norma Jean has always been blond. I love the way her braids and bangs are multicolored from the sun. She is wearing a coat and hat that Mama had made, one for each of us, out of burgundy corduroy fabric. I can still see those coats clearly in my mind's eye. Back in the days when we were small, we were often dressed alike, and it has always made me curious about whether it was just the times we lived in or whether Mama actually enjoyed dressing up her little girls.
|Norma Jean and me|
Nobody, least of all me, could have predicted our lives as they unfolded. Norma Jean met and married her husband, had two children, a boy and a girl, and stayed married until Pete died in February 2011. I also married and had two children, two boys, but both of them have died and I had three turbulent and rather disastrous marriages, before marrying again successfully at the age of fifty. Norma Jean has two grandchildren and I have none, but I enjoy hearing about their exploits from her, and I love to be around small children when I can give them back after awhile. My coffee shop buddies includes little Leo, who is now six, and I see him several times a week. He's not a morning person, though, and sometimes these days he doesn't want to talk or visit with me, but other times he's very gregarious. When he was younger, we played together daily.
I have other siblings, but because we were so close, I consider Norma Jean to be the sister of my heart. When her husband Pete died, I flew to Florida and spent three weeks with her, and at that time I realized that if life had turned out differently, we could have been the kind of sisters that end up together after our children and husbands were gone. Instead, I have a wonderful relationship with Smart Guy, my partner and life companion for the past quarter century. I visit my sister and we use video chat for a few hours every month to keep in touch. Her son Peter lives with her now, and just in the past few weeks her daughter Allison has moved nearby. This means that Norma Jean will see her grandchildren often. I'm sure that when I visit I will also get to spend time with them. Her life is full and she no longer needs any sort of protection from her big sister.
It's interesting to see how the tables have turned: I now get very anxious when for some reason we don't get to have our usual two-hour video chat. That family connection I derive from her is very important to me, and it's a rare day that I don't spend some time thinking about her, whether it's a memory from the past, or wondering how she's doing with various projects she's got going. Our connection fills a very definite need in my life. I'm so glad to have my beautiful sister in my life, and now that she is also turning seventy, we have seven decades of shared memories together. She has never known a world without her big sister, and I don't remember my world without her in it.
We now have the opportunity, I sincerely hope, to be old women growing older and sharing the trials and tribulations of aging with one another. She is as active as I am, swimming a mile five days a week, vigorous walking if she doesn't swim. She also takes one day off from exercise, as I do, unless of course she ends up playing golf with some of her friends in the 55-and-older community where she lives.
She is an avid reader, taking after our mother in that respect. Mama would go to the library and check out a box of books (a BIG box) and read every single one. Norma Jean reserves books online from the library that she wants to read or she downloads them to her Kindle. One of the things we both do is watch for books that we think the other would enjoy. She reads mysteries, which I don't, and I read science fiction, which she doesn't. But there have been many books over the past few years that we have both enjoyed very much. Right now I seem to be into memoirs, a genre we both enjoy. Finding a book to recommend to her is a pleasure. I wanted to give her one for her birthday that I particularly liked, but she told me to keep it, since she doesn't like to have actual books cluttering up her home; these days everything is either electronic or borrowed and returned to the library.
I realized just now that I am pretty much the same these days. I ordered and downloaded a book to my Kindle and have five books checked out from the library sitting next to my favorite chair. The only reason I have so many right now is that I put a hold on them and for some reason many of them will arrive at the library at the same time. Even my favorite independent bookstore, which I make an effort to support, now offers books electronically. They are a little more expensive than getting them from Amazon, but it's worth spending a little more to keep that store around. I had to download their electronic reader but it works quite well on my Kindle or iPad. How times have changed!
I marvel at how different the world will be for today's young ones who have never known a world without electronic gadgets. I do hope that actual books and libraries will survive this period, because there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands, turning pages and getting lost in another place. But our world will continue to evolve and change. I just hope that I get to share it with my sister Norma Jean for a long time to come. Happy birthday!
And for the rest of you, my dear readers, I wish you a very full and happy week until we meet here again next week.