I had just finished cleaning the house from top to bottom and I had some time to sit down and relax for a little bit while Peter was out buying the turkey. It will be Thanksgiving in two days and we were hosting this year so turkey duty fell to us. A crisp crack of thunder rippled overhead and the rain started to pour, tapping rhythmically against the windowpane. I smiled and picked up a couple of photo albums from the coffee table and flipped through it while I sat in my favorite armchair by the window, mug of hot cider in my left hand. The first album I opened was labeled “Siblings Through the Years” and contained pictures of us in every stage of life, all the way up to college and beyond.
The first picture was of me and Matt being bathed by Grandma, may she rest in peace. Mom was a first time parent at that time and had no idea what to do. She didn’t know how to bathe babies. The next few pictures were of our first birthday party. We had two cakes—one for me and one for Matt. One blue and brown, one pink and purple. I chuckled as I flipped through them. Dad was soaking wet! He always loves telling us how he had to brave a storm of biblical proportions to get home just in time for our birthday. He’ll probably tell that story again at Thanksgiving dinner in a couple of days.
And then there was our first trip ever to Washington state. One of the pictures showed a crying Matt while holding a snowball on the snowy slopes of Mount Rainier. The poor thing was scared of snow! Can you imagine? Weird, right? I, on the other hand, was loving every minute of it. I was practically Queen Elsa the whole time. Hashtag, TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway! There were also pictures of us at Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland, and SeaWorld San Diego. There was a picture of Mom and Matt on a horse on the King Arthur Carrousel. Dad and I rode on the horse beside them.
My favorite pictures, however, were of me and Matt at a petting zoo with some goats. As usual, Matt was being a scaredy-cat. He thought the goats would ram him and bash his little head in. I have never stopped teasing him about that. He’ll never live that down—ever!
I flipped through some more pages and found pictures of our Hawaii trip when Mom and Dad dropped us off at Uncle Ernest and Aunt Lena, Gwen’s parents. It was at the old Barbers Point base. It has been disestablished since. What year was it? 1999, I think? We had to stay there because Mom and Dad had a conference to attend and they needed someone to take care of us. That was the time when Matt was being a weirdo and locking doors—after throwing the keys into the rooms. To this day, we have no idea why he did it or what was on his mind. Luckily, Mom and Dad hadn’t left for the conference yet and Dad worked all night to get all those doors unlocked. Uncle Ernest was away on a mission at that time. He was underway in a nuclear sub somewhere.
There were also prom and homecoming pictures with Abigail on Matt’s arm. There were pictures of me and my first boyfriend Chris as a couple and then of us as a foursome. I loved Chris and he will always have a special place in my heart (they say you never forget your first love, right?), but I’m lucky to have found Peter. Clearly, he was the one God was preparing for me all along.
The rain outside grew louder and stronger and I had to pause to light the fireplace because it had gotten so cold all of a sudden. After I started the fire, I returned to my armchair, wrapped in my favorite tartan blanket, and resumed flipping through the album. I smiled and cried tears of joy when I got to one particular set of pictures. It was El’s—Tarrah’s adoption. She was eight. Matt and I were eighteen at that time. Have I ever told you why we call her El? It’s short for Eleven because of her uncanny resemblance to Millie Bobby Brown’s Stranger Things character. It started as a bonding thing between her and Matt. A special nickname for a special sister. Pretty soon, it caught on and everyone else started calling her El, including Mom and Dad. And later, Gwen. She never lets Peter or Abigail call her El, though. But I digress…
I wiped my happy tears with my free hand and smiled. There we were in Judge Gonzales’s chambers, finalizing the adoption. That day, she became Tarrah Folger. There she was in her little dark blue polka dot dress and black shoes, Mom and Dad holding each of her hands. She also had her back brace on. She looked so small, so thin and frail in that first picture. She was born with severe scoliosis and slight cerebral palsy. Matt took on the role of protector that day and would be her protector for most of her life. He defended her from her bullies and tormentors. She and Matt have a special bond to this day. Maybe even stronger than ours. But that’s alright. If you’re thinking I’m jealous, you’d be dead wrong. I’m not. I love Tarrah and hold her dearer than life itself—we all do.
Throughout the years, she filled out more and was able to live a normal happy life. She even ditched the back brace at some point. Now she’s a third and fifth grade teacher and is engaged to a sweet young man named Eric. Today, you wouldn’t realize she has scoliosis and cerebral palsy unless you look long and hard enough. She has a slightly noticeable limp in her step. Some people miss it, some don’t. Anyway, back to the album…
The next few pictures were of us as a family at Chart House after leaving the courthouse to celebrate Tarrah’s adoption. She was all smiles. We were all smiles. Every now and then, I look back fondly on those moments—Mom crying happy tears, Matt with his arms protectively wrapped around Tarrah’s shoulders, all of us smiling and waving at the camera as our server took our picture, Dad taking our picture in front of the restaurant before we left, Mom taking one last picture… Some were serious family Christmas card-worthy shots, some were wacky and so ridiculous that I couldn’t stop laughing.
And then there was me in the hospital just after my tonsillectomy a few years ago. It was a year before Matt signed on with the Peace Corps. I was miserable because nobody had come by to visit me yet. It was just me and Mom in that lonely hospital room. Dad, Matt, Gwen, and El surprised me with some ice cream. It was all I was able to eat then. That and soups, of course. Then Mom kicked Dad and Matt out of the room so we could have a girls bonding, all four of us—Mom, El, Gwen, and me. It was an ice cream party and Mom took lots of pictures. Hashtag SistersforLife! Hashtag AndCousinsTooOfCourse!
Suddenly, Peter’s voice broke through my thoughts and I felt him kiss the top of my head. I turned around and looked up, surprised to find he was already home.
“Is that you in that hospital bed?” he asked with a laugh. “I’ve never seen that one before.”
“Best day ever,” I said with a smile. “We ate all the ice cream we could eat. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“You were too engrossed in flipping through those albums,” Peter said. “Turkey’s in the kitchen, by the way. It’s waiting to be brined.”
“Alright,” I said, kissing Peter. “In a minute. I’ll just finish up here.”
“Take all the time you need,” Peter said. “I’ll go ahead and prepare the brine.”
“Thanks, Babe,” I said with another kiss.
“You’re welcome,” Peter said, before heading back into the kitchen to prepare the brine for the turkey.
These albums and memories will have to wait another day. We have guests to host in a couple of days and a turkey to brine.