Friday, October 21, 2016

Counting Cars on US 31

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves — a special kind of double. --Toni Morrison

The Internet went down today, which is a bummer for people doing important things like procrastinating on eBay, as I am wont to do when working on my novel. At least half my closet is filled with great finds purchased on eBay while avoiding the page. The items that didn't fit or that I liked on a Wednesday but found ugly on a Saturday now fill a bag in my car on its way to the thrift store. I suppose some of those clothes will end up on eBay again in the not-too-distant future. I'm not sure if you'd call that irony or synchronicity, but I like the full-circle aspect of it. 

I spend a lot of time on eBay but in all these years, I've yet to find the one item I wish I could retrieve from my childhood. Made of cherry wood with grape leaves carved into the sides, the bowl sat on a base and came with a tiny key that, when cranked, played music while it turned in circles. Our family called it the Singing Bowl. On summer nights when my sisters and I camped out in the back yard, we'd fill the bowl with popcorn before tip-toeing out of the house like tiny ghosts in our hand-made night gowns. The air was pregnant with Lake Michigan's humidity and our nighties clung to us like gum to a school desk as we huddled inside our makeshift tent, a mish-mash of blankets thrown over a rusty swing set frame. Nita, the oldest of the three youngest, took command over the one flashlight we were allotted. She used it sparingly, knowing full well the power of ownership that light gave her over my sister Vonny and me.

Under the magical spell of overhead stars, the three of us told stories, laughed, and plucked popcorn from the Singing Bowl as it turned in front of our six scabby knees. When our bellies were full, we'd sneak the two blocks into town where we'd sit on the curb in our bare feet and count the minutes between passing cars on U.S. 31. Eventually we'd tire and make our way back home. "Step on a crack, break your mother's back" we'd chant, taking giant leaps from one sidewalk square to the next.
Our goal was always to stay up until midnight, the hour when all scary things happen, although nothing ever happened. When the second hand ticked by twelve on Nita's watch, she'd hold the flashlight under her face and say, "Boo!" We'd squeal, then fall giggling onto our musty-smelling bedrolls. One last crink-crink of the wind-up bowl and we'd fall asleep with lilting notes that filled the sticky night, trying to forget that our mother's back was already broken.
What I wouldn't give to eat popcorn from that Singing Bowl again. To look into the innocent faces of my sisters when we didn't yet know the value of simple moments that get lost like a haunting melody you can't quite remember but permeates your dreams. To trace the carved-out leaves while tracing my way back to the joy of telling stories, much like the tale I meant to write when I got sidetracked by this one. But you know what? I don't need no stinking bowl to remind me that when the Internet goes down, it allows us to go deeper. So neener neener to whoever is responsible for the DNS attack today. You actually did some of us a favor.

What about you? Do you have a favorite memory of your sister(s)? If you didn't have Internet right now, what would you be doing instead?