Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Like A Sister

This past weekend was my cousin Joan's birthday. In a lot of ways, she's always been like a sister to me - which worked out great since the only siblings I have is one older brother. Since he and I are four years apart in age, we weren't very close growing up (he and his friends didn't want their dorky younger brothers hanging about). Joan too was the youngest of my aunt and uncle's three daughters, with about eight years between her and her next oldest sister. And given that she and I were only two years apart in age (she's older than me), we tended to spend a lot of time together.

As little kids we played a lot together, mostly at her house or my grandparents' house - which shared a common fenced in backyard. They had the cool swingset, monkeybars, sandbox and slide. The yard was large - great for playing kickball, badmitton, croquet, etc. The basement at her house had tons of board games, a piano, comfy furniture and even a table and benches where we could eat our lunches or snacks. We'd often play "school", using the desk they had down there as a school desk. She'd be the teacher, giving lessons on the chalkboard and then tests for me to take. They were usually English types (diagram sentences) or a bunch of math problems to solve. Who knew then that she would end up getting her degree in teaching? She substitutes in the local hometown school district - she and her family even live in that same house.

When we were older, we'd often spend most of our summer weekdays out at the country club. We'd play 18-holes of golf in the morning, have our lunches which we brought around noon and then hang out at the swimming pool until late in the afternoon. That was a lot easier when she was old enough to drive us - there was no relying on our moms for transportation. We'd also walk the half mile or so from her house over to the tennis courts by the high school to hit about a few volleys.

From the time we were kids well into our late teens, we often would go to see movies together. As kids, it was the Disney rounds: animated films like Robin Hood, the Aristocats, and such, or live action films like the Apple Dumpling Gang, the Shaggy D.A., Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and the like. By the later part of the 70's, we'd graduated to seeing more grown up films like Meatballs, the Main Event, Cannonball Run, Xanadu, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease and the like. Those later two were especially favorites - she always had such a huge crush on John Travolta. There were two theatres in town - one downtown and one in the plaza out near where I lived. Even with just single screens in each, that still gave us a couple options to chose from.

Our families took two vacations down to Florida growing up. And when our parents would go away with their friends, my brother and I would stay with her and her older sister who would be watching us for the week. Oh, and every summer when the Chautauqua County Fair was held in town, Joan and I would always go on "kids' day" and spend the whole day riding rides, checking out the crafts exhibits, looking at the livestock in the barns and gorging ourselves on fair food like pizza, waffles, candied apples and french fries.

I long since moved away from Dunkirk, but I still call her every year on her birthday (as she does on mine). We see each other once a year, usually when she and her family come down to NC to stay a week near where my parents live.

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