Thursday, May 20, 2010
My sister, Niki, turns 60 today. Hard to believe. [I'm older than she is by 4 years and 10 months... so guess where I'm headed... heavy sigh!!] No two people could be much more opposite in character, gift areas, personality strengths and/or weaknesses. And, in these past forty-plus years, we have developed a great deal of respect for each other, which could have been the opposite if the Lord hadn't stepped into my life, especially, and softened me. He also, however, stepped into hers and she began her walk with him just a few years after me. By then, I was living in California ... then Omaha ... then Oklahoma ... and back to Omaha, and, until 25 years ago, when I married my dear husband, I rarely had any real time with my "Tacoma-based" family, through poverty or otherwise, sometimes as long as seven years without seeing them. So, I hardly ever saw Niki from the time she was turning 19 until she was 35. A bit tough to keep up to date, except through the rare phone call or letter.
Here're some stories.
When I was 18, nearly 19, and she had just turned 14, she was staying with me in my apt in Seattle. It was a summer night. I remember the lights were out and we were laying in bed, a slight breeze floating through the window, but too hot to sleep, and she started telling me stories about her school experiences that I had never heard.
-- In 2nd grade, the teacher told the children to draw pictures of a pot. Then, row by row, they got up to show them. Niki said she realized she was in trouble, because the first row had pictures of flower pots and tea kettles and coffee pots, and the 2nd row had the same. And when her row got up, she knew she would be the only one with the picture of a toilet.
-- In 8th grade, the class had turned in science reports. She said some parents were helping grade the papers and were sitting in the back of the classroom and started chuckling and passing a report around and she just automatically knew it was hers... and it was. She had said, "A female frog lays its eggs and the male frog sterilizes them."
While she told me these and other stories, I laid there and roared with laughter.
A few weeks later, the Summer of '64, when the Beatles were "new" world-wide stars, and were coming through town, Nik wanted to go see them as they drove through the Seattle World Fair Center on their way to their venue. I wasn't a Beatles fan, and certainly thought this was a waste of time, but she LOVED George Harrison and insisted and I finally caved. I lived only about two miles from that spot, so we walked down Queen Anne hill and I let her go and told her where to come and meet me. WELL, I waited one long time!! When she finally came up, I was ready to nail her for keeping me there so long. But she was so excited she didn't even listen to my grouching at her. She said, "I saw them." And I said, sarcastically, "OF COURSE, you saw them... that's why we came." "No," she said. "I SAW them. A girl was by me in the crowd and had an extra ticket -- and gave it to me!" So, while I was waiting, she was at that concert. Talk about a kind gift to her. We never could have afforded anything like that. I recognized that this was something I couldn't nag her about, so I actually shut up.
I'm not sure when this happened, but it's just a typical Niki -- AND, unfortunately, a typical "me". I was kid watching and she and the younger ones were in their bedroom and there was all this noisy thumping going on, probably jumping from bunk bed to bunk bed, and tossing things around. I went in there hollering something similar to "WHAT'S GOING ON???" Niki sang a line from "It Is No Secret What God Can Do." Her line? "Someone slipped and fell...". She may have been funny, but my response was everything less than that, unfortunately. But, NOW, I grin when I think of it.
In March of '68, when I returned to Tacoma after a very wild year in East St. Louis, while working with an Inner-City Christian organization -- can STILL write crazy stories about that -- my sisters had begun to be invaded with drugs, etc. They were in the 13-to-17 age range. I was 22 and was pretty good at "dressing down" and looked about 16 if I chose to. So I kind of sauntered towards Nik and said, "Hey, take me to one of the parties so I can meet these folks." She said, "No." And I asked why and she said, "Because they will find out that you are there to get their names and find out where they're from so you can turn them into the police, and then they will kill you." I just shrugged and said, "Oh." Because she was absolutely right! I wanted to protect my sisters from being drawn into that dangerous way of life -- and God used her to protect ME.
Then lots happened... most of it not so good ... in lots of our family lives and situations. I'll skip all the "not so good" stuff.
When she was 19 years old, she came to the Lord. I was thrilled when I heard that; wish I'd kept the letter that blessed me with that news.
For years I've referred to her as my "Little House on the Prairie" sister. She has lived in places I would never have dreamed would be a possibility:
-- She had recently remarried and she and her husband and her 3 older kids lived on a piece of property in the area of Mount Rainier. They had built several lean-to style units... a kitchen, storage and outhouse, some bedrooms ... separated by a bit of a pathway. About as "pioneer"-style as most of us can imagine. The area around it was gorgeous. However, when winter hit, it was too challenging and had to be abandoned after a stretch of time, first temporarily working around winter, and then permanently.
-- They built a log cabin up in the wilderness portion of north-central WA, not far from the Canadian border. I visited once. Comfortable, though unfancy house -- in the attached photo you will see the bathtub. And no indoor toilet. The outhouse was doorless so the "inhabitant" could enjoy looking out over the hills and lovely scenery... it WAS turned away from the house, so no one could see directly into it, but I still was nervous about using it so "openly."
-- They lived in an RV in a small community near the Columbia River west of Portland. Niki's older three, children of her former husband, had all moved on in life. With her "Mount Rainier" husband, she now had three girls. The girls' bedroom was the space over the cab. I visited one afternoon, during a drive along the Columbia; there most certainly wouldn't have been room to spend the night.
And other homes, places, until a few years ago, Niki was always adjusting to something unusual. In a way, still is. But what amazes me about her is that she is always able to be creative with art work (hers and others) and makes certain that the walls aren't just plain ol', plain ol'; flexible in what is available for use and what isn't; adjusting her cooking and cleaning patterns depending on where she is and what her options are. As I said, it amazes me. "Me" would definitely not be "She" in those ways.
About twenty years ago we finally came up with a good way to describe our "approach to life" difference. As kids, when we woke up in the morning, Niki would think, with excitement and joy, "OH, another DAY!!!" I would wake up and think, buried in depression, fear, and anger, "Oh, another day!"
What else does Niki do? She speaks for Stonecroft in the WA/OR area. She ministers to people who have tough and rough backgrounds or are dealing with drug and alcohol addictions. She has homeschooled for years, plays guitar, sings, LOVES to dance, draws, writes cartoony funny stuff. When we're together every couple of years we try to head for the Oregon coast -- she only lives about 30 miles from Astoria -- and we go to Cannon Beach and spend the day walking and talking --- talking over each other and interrupting each other --- and laughing and laughing and laughing and praying and praying and praying and singing and singing and singing some more. All intermixed with serious discussions about the present and our hopes for the future.
[Oh, just so you know. She's not perfect! Darn! I bet she seemed that way as I was telling the stories. But she's one good woman!]
I'll be seeing her in July and am already planning my day with her, just because I know I can be myself, "what"ever and "who"ever that is. I know we will laugh; she breaks through my seriosity and, as a result, MY humorous and funny side comes out that others tend to miss. And because of that, her girls and husband enjoy me, too, and I'm quite welcome to their world. Rather nice, doncha think?
SO, dear Sis... happy birthday. You're a joy!!