Now that I have returned to college life, I will still post when I can but they will sadly be much more sporadic. Thanks to everyone for the support and making my summer break amazing!
Now that I have returned to college life, I will still post when I can but they will sadly be much more sporadic. Thanks to everyone for the support and making my summer break amazing!
The house is the same as many would imagine a Midwest farm house to be, with it’s wrap around porch, shutters and standard off white paint. A wooden screen door gently taps frame in rhythm with the breeze. The two stories give a deceiving appearance that the structure may contain more than two bedrooms but in fact it does not. Roof covered in gray shingles, sloped to a pitch designed with the idea of discouraging snow from accumulating, gaining weight and collapsing inward, protects the inside from nature. Traditional style curtains can clearly be seen through windows on both floors, indicating the proprietors understanding of roots and willingness to stay with what works.
Infront of the house a large split pasture is seperated from gravel drive and small front yard by white wooden fence. The fence has a stoutness suggesting it is not merely a cosmetic structure but one of function as well. Grass in the yard is clipped much closer to ground than that of the pastures. Amongst this manicured lawn is a lone tree, the sort that stands tall and twisted informing anyone who looks upon it, that it has stood through many seasons and generations in this very spot. A rope plank swing hangs from one of the larger branches, the platforms worn wooden bench, displays years of fun and joy. Off behind the house in a somewhat typical fashion is a red barn, trimmed in the same white as the place of residence. Connected off the right hand side is another pasture, where seven horses can be seen grazing. The enclosing allows animals to freely enter their stalls for water or rest from weather at will. On closer examination large sliding doors can be seen, they can be closed at night containing the beautiful horses safely in thier respective stalls.
Upon entering the home the scent of linseed oil, varnish, and various other smells of oil painting fills the air. These aromas are often accompanied by gentle music softly playing in the background or the clear melody of someone playing live accusticly. Wooden floor, showing care taken to preserve, yet the undeniable pattern that years of those who live here coming and going, leads to a staircase. From staircases bottom both kitchen and family room can be viewed depending on which direction one is looking. An open family room with sofa, end tables holding matching lamps, two chairs and a long wooden record player stereo are the main furnishings, besides a desk in one corner. The desk has feathers, furs, a vise and other items used for the tying of flies, intended to at some later date entice a trout to rise. Beside it is an easel with a painting in progress tenderly perched upon the stained wood, which clearly shows its use. A television is the only furnishing which seems out of place hanging on the far wall in a position guaranteeing that in order to be viewed the chairs must be repositioned. Of course on nights when hockey is being played they are infact turned to face the lone modern device in the room.
Breathing deeply I take in all that is the home of my childhood and all besides nine months of my years on this Earth. Tomorrow evening I will walk from what is now Brooke’s bedroom down these stairs and out the door. Mom will hug me tightly on the porch, we all spend so much time on. She will hand me some extra cash whispering to not tell my father. Brooke will be waiting in the back seat when I climb into the front one next to Dad. I will turn to talk to Brooke as we pull away, in order to see the place I call home and mostly to watch Mom standing on the wooden porch. In a few hours drive time my things will for the second time be carried into a dorm room by my father. He will hand me some cash instructing me not to tell Mom. Brooke and I will hug and kiss goodbye, without words spoken between us. As Dad and Brookelyn get into vehicle I will say mostly to keep myself from crying, “I’ll be home for Thanksgiving!”
I felt compelled to add that I am excited about going back to school! I’m also grateful to be going back early, because my early return means I have kept my athletics scholarship and will be returning for the sport, long before classes begin. Yet, it’s all quite bittersweet.
Finish is worn revealing gentler wood tones, on the arm of the wooden chair, suggesting years of use. The wear clearly from a forearm larger than that of the youthful current inhabitant. More curious than her headwear is the activity of the girl seated at the table with stain and design matching the chair. A delicate finger traces the location where varnish has faded from years of use, as if through touch she can gain understanding of the man who occupies this spot in early morning hours sipping black coffee. Does she gain the knowledge which he received from hours spent in this very location, folding papers containing events of the world. Among them the sports section which always holds his attention slightly longer.
On this day Brooke has chosen the brown bowler, her favorite choice of hat, though she generally seems slightly more partial to the faded black one. The one with felt worn on brims edge, much like the chairs arm, from years of repeated touch. It was a gift from grandfather, he had carried it on the long flight back from England, since it was sizes too small for him but a perfect fit for the little girl whom it strangely reminded him of that rainy day he spotted it through milky glass in the second hand store. This derby would start a collection of many including the brown one donned at the moment. There are the other hats and caps of all styles but by the sure number of days worn, all would agree that bowlers are the definite favorite of young observer.
Taking the seat next to younger sister causes her to look up casting a slight smile with always slightly blushed lips. Returning the smile, I resists the urge to glance away from gentle eyes. Brooke’s eyes hold secrets that have always for me been best observed in small doses. This day I take in all the emotion, love, warmth and passion that exudes from her. A slight tilt of head and scrunching of her noses suggests I should speak, asking me what I’m thinking.
“Brooke what are you doing?”, I ask my sister who I’d watched for some time seated in fathers chair, gently touching the arm worn by his use.
The yellow tablet is pulled close words are placed on it in looping perfect cursive. When thoughts are complete it is slid on the table in my direction. “Talking to Dad, I miss him.”
Six words simple and clear lead me to questions, rather than the answer I believed to be seeking. What do you mean miss him, I think to myself. After all father left for his days work less than two hours ago and as always he will be home before dinner is eaten together. Above the words written for me on the tablet is the evidence of the conversation Brooke and Dad had while he drank morning coffee, so why talking to him?
Brookelyn, now returned to herself and conversation with father, gently rubs the place where his arm hours before rested. Slowly standing in attempt to find my answers in her own fashion rather than mine, I close my eyes. Brooke’s face is soft beneath the gentle touch of my hand as I trace it’s curves, memorizing her form. Slightly damp lips kiss my palm and in my mind I hear the voice of an angel, “I love you too” are the words spoken.
Legs tired from running up and down the field, where practice has just concluded, slightly shaking do their best to hold my tired frame beneath showers spray. Flip-flops protect my feet from the sorts of elements that live on the white tile floors of locker rooms. The water stings slightly mellowing the tension of overworked muscles. While the absence of ever present chatter of teammates insures that practice has drained even the strength to speak from all present. My mind ponders why this was all I wanted during High School, this chance to be a member of the University women’s lacrosse team. I can only ponder for a moment, I simply lack the energy thought requires.
Slightly recovered by the shower, as if exhaustion washed down the drain with the bits of grass that had clung to my legs. I dress in a white shirt, recalling how proud I’d been when the coaches had issued the shirt with our schools blue simple yet unmistakeable logo on the chest. In appreciation index finger traces the raised letters bellow the emblem, spelling out WLAX. Pride replaces weariness as I spot my roommate, who appears as worn out as myself from the days conditioning. The familiar two words that are known across the country as our schools motto echo off the navy and white walls, breaking the silence. My shout is answered back from dorm mate and teammates alike, as per school tradition. It feels good, hearing upperclassman respond to my voice reassuring that I truly belong.
My new best friend, teammate and dorm mate walks out of the University athletics complex slightly ahead of me. Tapping shoulder of solid muscle going past her, I challenge, “race you to the room!”
Balls of my feet pushing off familiar pavement, breeze in face, I find full stride. It feels good reaching goals, accomplishing dreams and of course as always running. Imagination turns the concrete to the gravel drive of home, crunching with each touch of foot. This burst of energy is more than simple achievements or love of life, it’s the knowledge that in the dorm an email from Brooke waits for me. Without fail there is a message every evening, telling me of all the events of my sister’s day. On this day I can’t wait to tell her my feelings, to share the realization of my success. Also, I need to thank her for all the support and always showing me what it’s like to be a champion.
Tender notes fill the room. My mind wonders to distant lands, New Orleans or a bay out west. Places romanticized by novels read, travelers from times long past and of course film. The melody of the record spinning on the turntable which is housed in stereo that speaks of another time, holds me to reality. We could own the finest Bose stereo and the records of our grandparents would still be played on this one that is more furniture than electronics equipment. Brooke insists that music is best when in its intended form, a true record. She of course has an iPod and downloads music of many styles and eras. However, Brookelyn’s favorites are on vinyl.
My eyes open slowly at the gentle touch of sister’s finger to my lips. Looking up from the sofa into Brooke’s pretty face, I offer a smile, to ensure that as always her unusual methods of gaining my attention are appreciated. She quickly signs that she would like my help this morning with the duties in the barn and caring for the horses. Knowing it has little to do with the work that she enjoys but instead is an opportunity she has chosen to spend with me I quickly agree.
Stepping into the cool shadows of the barn behind our home I’m saddened remembering that at Brooke’s age I fought with our parents about doing these tasks, which sister does without so much as a request. To escape self-ridicule I talk to Brooke about traveling, the wonders that foreign places must surely hold. Shovels scrape concrete floors clean with metallic sound, followed by the spray of water that completely clears the stall floors. The whole time I talk of piers, ships sailing far away and adventures neither sister have known. Brookelyn listens acknowledging my words with smiles and at times nods of head. She works slower than normal, allowing me to handle my share of the duties that have long fallen on her precious shoulders.
The bay which Brooke most rides tries to be near her, nosing her hair that hangs bellow the bowler covering her head. Like everyone who knows Brookelyn, Shane does his best to be as close to her as possible. She meets his gesture of love with a gentle blow of breath from between soft lips into his face, then pats the horse who persists on. Once Shane’s area is cleaned Brooke hops over the railing, he turns and exits to the open arena outside his stall. Failing to occupy his loves attention, he has retreated to his peers company, to recoup for another attempt in the future. Feed laid out, barn clean and tended we exit into the sunshine, my eyes taking a moment to adjust to the worlds brightness.
“Brooke, where do you most want to go?” I ask drifting back to dreams of ports, bridges and romantic locations.
Bright eyes meet mine as, “into the house to get a drink, then back out to saddle Shane and go for a ride. Want to come?” is signed in response.
Sitting in familiar saddle, I watch Shane give a slight snort in approval as Brooke mounts. My little sister in perfect riding posture leads the way out of the barn across sunny pasture, opening the bays gate into a slight gallop. Oceans, adventures and travels are forgotten, my heels gesture the horse beneath me to do his best to catch that which at the moment Shane has achieved, Brooke’s attention and favor.
Wild grass covers the small field, which is inclosed by a wooden fence, in front of our home. A dirt and gravel drive leads to a blacktop road that can not be seen from the wooden porch. Five chairs, two of them being the type that rock, are perfect places to find yourself for relaxation, conversation, or to view the day. Perched in the other piece of furniture, a wooden swing, the slight breeze sways me gently. Far across the field a shadow moves, the young mare lifts her head for a moment, then upon recognizing the shadows form returns to chewing natures gifts. As often is the case familiarity brings comfort and ease.
Making way through the pasture, from my location the shadow soon gains form. Sun glistens on golden hair, that hangs loosely beneath a worn derby. The bowler hat would be out of place to the scene if not for the individual wearing it. The derby is just one of many unique bits of fashion Brooke uses as headware. A fly-rod rests on her shoulder, catching the sun on eyelets on occasion, sending bright spots of light in my direction. From her walk it is apparent the creel over her left shoulder is not empty, but instead contains the morning catch.
Brooke is well beyond half way across the field when basket of fish and rod are placed on the ground as her arms are wrapped around the neck of the mare. A bit of her morning snack that she has saved for this moment is removed from her small pack. The horse gently eats the apple piece from my sisters palm. Unlike the mare I understand the strength of this gesture, apples are in fact Brooke’s favorite of all foods, a slice saved for an old friend is no small offering. Horse patted once more, gear is gathered from the ground, as fisherman continues home.
The screen gently taps door frame as father joins me on the porch. He has witnessed the scene from inside but can no longer keep glass between himself and that which he so loves. “Sometimes I wish that youth, innocence, wisdom, tenderness and beauty was my own,” Dad almost whispers.
“It is.” I respond in the same tone.
“I may have had a slight hand in creating her but she is not mine. Brooke belongs to no one, barely even to this world. What I meant however was that I wish, I was more like her.”
The words of father could be my own. It’s not that I want to be like Brooke, who my father is now holding the wooden gate for, it’s more a want to know what it’s like to see things as she does for just a moment. Brookelyn tips the bowler and smiles at Dad holding the gate open, they walk together up to the porch before she sees me in the shadows. A huge smile comes across her face as creel is handed to father. For a moment, before she reaches into her pack I believe she is proud of her catch. Of course humility being one of her stronger qualities I quickly realize the smile is for me, as a slightly dusty hand offers me a slice of apple pertected from the dust by white handkerchief.
Standing in cap gown on the green grass that my feet have covered during so many practices and lacrosse games, it doesn’t feel real. High School is over, I’ve been accepted at State and should be excited. Yet a melancholy his filled my body all day. My friends are triumphant, they should be, we made it. The accumulation of four years of last minute studying, homework frantically completed before class and of course so much more, is behind us. The laughs, tears, first loves, heartbreaks, close calls and all that we believe to be the biggest moments of our lives. Some of what we’ve done may impact us forever, most was just inflated by our importance of self. None of this accounts for my mood.
Caps fly hi to cheers and youthful whoops. The one that had been pinned to my hair by my mother is of course among them. I have the diploma in leather binder tucked beneath my arm, hugs and congratulations for the scholarship that was announced naming me as recipient are given. My father is taking pictures of me and my friends. My smile is huge, a mask of the true somber tones of this occasion.
One figure in a white dress covered in yellow daisies, symbolic of the purity of the girl wearing it, sits in the now vacated bleachers alone. A setting sun casts a glow around her, fitting her angelic beauty. I quickly try to imagine her in a year sitting there with friends cheering on the football team. Or in five standing on the field in a gown much like the one I am covered in. As I get closer I see she has a sketch book in her hands. I ask if I can see what she is drawing to which I simply get a gesture of no. The sketches are too preliminary to share, they are just for reference, the painting will be given to me on her only visit to see me during my freshman year.
Embracing Brooke my tears that fall down onto her back are matched by her own dampening my shoulder. This is not only a day of recognized accomplishment but a day marking childhood being left behind. She is happy for me in regards to that which I’ve completed but we know in a few short months the room we have always shared will only house one.
As my first summer home from college draws shorter, I’m reminded of graduating and again slightly feeling a familiar meloncholy. I asked Brooke today if she was excited for her freshman year of High School. Dreamy eyes looked at me as she signed, “not really, it means your going away again.”
Paintings and photographs hang from the walls, that enclose what becomes home when full of the love our family shares. There is the one of the ship in a turmoil tossed sea. The endless photographs of family, many of our parents clear favorite, Brooke and me. The painting of our grandparents farm house. It is a work done by an uncle or distant cousin, which I am no longer sure but once could have said. In the kitchen a scene depicts chickens in a dusty yard. My favorite, a portrait, painted by an artist of some renown hangs in the family room against the wall farthest from the fireplace.
Brooke spends hours recreating the paintings with her own hands. Then she moves on to creations of her own, some from mind, others from items in sight. As we grow up, slowly first works of art, then photographs are replaced by pieces in frames father has built in the barn with his wood working tools. The tools with different edges of metal and handles worn shiny and smooth from first grandfathers and now his hands. Mother selects which works of my sisters art replace which others in our home. Until finally the house resembles a museum of dedication to the youngest child. Walls in every room finally full, paintings are swapped when Brooke believes the newest creation is of finer quality. A few of my parents favorites are never touched or moved, others find there way into hands of guests and are taken to new homes. Some are taken from the wall by their creator and placed back on easel and reworked or completely covered with something new. The kitchen has works of windmills in Dutch fields that none of our eyes have seen in person. Or is it now the market of some Mediterranean dream, they change in a pace that makes it difficult to be completely sure.
Where once my favorite portrait hung, a reproduction has taken its place. The reproduction is far superior, or perhaps I am biased in my viewing. The scent of linseed, gum and poppy oil rise from its fresh surface. On the sofa the artist, my sister sits, hands full of magic finding familiar place on a fret board create music only overshadowed by the paintings surrounding us. Inside me I shout, ‘put down that guitar and paint sister, always and forever you must paint!’ Out of respect for all that makes Brooke complete I stay silent.
For the first time in our lives the studying of that which covers our walls is done by the older sister. I memorize each pattern, color, the ridges left by brushes, smoothness created in other places. The magnificant tones that combine to make shadows.
In the attic neatly wrapped is photographs and paintings that once had places on our families walls but no longer have use or bearing. They are missed by no one, least of all myself, only barely remembered. I can’t say when the last one was removed to make space for something of Brooke’s. All I’m sure of is the current wealth of our walls is beyond any I will ever know.
These blog posts have not directly mentioned faith or our families belief system. When I wrote about young Brooke’s quest for forgiveness, purposefully I did not mention it was God she asked for it. There is no shame in our belief, nor do I deny the faith we have, it is more that this blog is not about debatable topics, or creating gaps between us and the world. The blog is simply to find and share Brooke’s voice.
In order to hold true to purpose, self and Brooke what I’m about to tell must be included. Be warned if you venture to read more of this post it is possible you may be offended, though I’m not asking you to believe or think anything. This is just an offer of how Brooke and now I see things. While Brookelyn and I are quite open minded and respect others beliefs this post is about Brooke’s. If you decide to read on I welcome any views and opinions.
The sound of the shower awakens anyone in the bed that is on the wall in Brooke and mines room that keeps our sleeping space separate from the bathroom. That is exactly why my bed is located where it is, an alarm clock that is minus the bells or chimes that tend to frustrate me. Opening my eyes, the first glimpse of sunlight is peering beneath the window coverings. Brooke’s bed is already empty, sheets neatly tucked, blanket smoothed and single pillow placed on top. Why she makes her bed the moment she steps out of it is as mysterious to me as the manner in which it’s done, pillow always uncovered. Brookelyn’s love for new days beginning is another source of pondering. This response to mornings much like a birds flight of migration, is just natural for the younger sister.
Before I have exited my bed Brooke is in the doorway brushing out hair that still drips, leaving spots on the floor. A white dress covers her delicate frame, showing areas of dampness that she felt no compulsion to completely dry. No matter how many times I talk to her about drying off, like getting up early, Brooke has her way. In this case it is to somewhat drip dry. This is a curious choice, almost at odds with her tidy neatness in most other matters.
In the backseat, with our bellies full of oatmeal, my voice tells Brooke about the cute boy that just joined my class in school. She listens watching the fields of our neighbors pass by as we make our way towards church. Brooke always seems to be at her happiest but a little dreamy on church mornings. It’s the only time she does not carry a tablet and pen. Rarely does she sign anything but mostly she simply smiles in her silence, owning it in a way that is almost honoring the quiet.
Exiting church, the day has warmed and promises afternoon adventures, maybe a horse back ride or something just as exciting. On the way home we stop off, Mom needs an item to complete Sunday dinner, the meal of the week we almost always share with guests. Brooke and I wonder the isles of the market, containing sweets. The new boy from class to my surprise stands at the end of the isle. Blue jeans and a t-shirt cover his athletic frame, the sort that promises he is adept at putting a ball in a hoop or running down a fly in the field. Unlike my nature I offer only a shy wave. My gesture is met with a greeting as he approaches us.
He acts surprised that I have a younger sister and blunders with words when I explain she isn’t being shy or rude but instead that Brooke is mute. I can tell that he is full of questions but then he awkwardly suggests a phrase like, “that’s cool”. Leading to an even greater awkward silence, after all it isn’t really cool. Brokkelyn, use to these encounters changes the subject with a smile and by signing to me that it is in fact cool. I vocally translate the signed words and as kids do in certain moments we genuinely laugh with no need for humor. Our new friend steps back, he is surprised that her laugh is silent as well. In his defense at times even I am startled by this. Quickly I explain she is inaudible, unable to make vocal sounds, adding that it’s not a hearing, mental or social issue.
As comfort enters the encounter he inquires why we are in dresses, the type one may wear to a wedding. My explanation of church leads to a response that I had never imagined.
“Oh, you are those kind of people,” the young man says rolling his eyes.
“What does that mean? Calling us ‘those kind of people’,” I respond with slight contempt in my voice. I’m irritated and in that period of life when I’d fight just as quickly as explain myself.
“Just you believe in the whole God thing, it’s dumb,” he replies.
I’m about to tell him he is dumb and to punch him in the eye when out of nowhere Brooke hugs him and takes my hand leading me towards the exit of the store. She waives over her shoulder with a smile as we exit. Shock has kept me as silent as my sister as we climb in the backseat and wait with Dad for Mom to return.
In the comfort of our home, shock faded and irritation at a max, I tell our parents of the event and rant about the stupid boy, that I’d once crushed on. Mom offers the advice mothers often do, Dad praises Brooke but admits he can’t understand the hug. Brookelyn sits at the small table writing on her yellow tablet. When completed she passes her words to my father who reads them allowed, putting answers to questions that my young mind had yet to even ask.
“I hugged him because I felt sad for him. Not believing in something doesn’t not make it real. Not knowing God would make me sad, so I was worried he was sad and hugs help when you are sad. I didn’t want Sissy to argue with him cause God doesn’t like arguing. Also if you know something to be true you don’t need others to agree with you. You only need others to agree if you aren’t sure and I didn’t want Sissy to not be sure. God loves him and I thought Sissy was going to hit him. I don’t really care about him but God doesn’t like mean things and I didn’t want Sissy to need forgiveness.”
Brooke’s words read, we shared a family moment in her silence before my Dad said, “Well I suppose that sums it all up. If Mom can spare some time from the kitchen I can saddle the horses and we can all enjoy the beautiful day.”
Watching Brooke climb onto the English saddle she insists upon using, it was clear to me that my sisters faith is as unwavering as all her other quirks, like not completely drying off after showers, formal riding saddles for casual rides, beds made crisply with pillows uncovered, interesting somewhat inappropriate headware, and silent Sunday mornings.
I didn’t write a Fathers Day post, because I feel that in sharing Brooke with the world and finding her voice, it will be clearly seen how special our father is to us. We did have a special day for Dad, a day just for him. Brookelyn and I made him breakfast and spent the day with him. This in itself is not rare. What set the day apart from many was us initiating the activities and planning them with the hope he would feel our love. We love him everyday and spend time with him as well, though he often plans and initiates what we do together.
Dads impact on us can be seen in our interests, actions and hopefully our character. There is the fly-fishing Brooke enjoys and of course me playing lacrosse and soccer. What stands out the most as a direct impact from father is hockey.
Brooke smiles at me pulling the familure white and brown jersey over her head. She prefers the one that ties at the neck, the Brown Bears no longer don this style it has been replaced with the model I’m wearing. On toes, my sister bounces down the stair case receiving a glance from Mom, informing her she is in direct violation of indoor speed limits. Brooke’s hair pulled back and tied with a ribbon, matching in color to the rich chocolate of the trim on her jersey. Her pace, perfect coordination of color, disregard for rules of movement in our home and Moms allowance of the misconduct, are telling signs of the importance of AHL hockey in Hershey.
The chill of the air can be seen on Brooke’s flushed cheeks. A beanie now covers most of her hair that had been so neatly tied with the ribbon. A remnant of a snack eaten between second and third period breaks up the white of her jersey. Her eyes are glued to the action on the ice, though tonight the Bears lead by more than a couple goals as the closing seconds tick away. She hasn’t signed or written a word since the first puck drop, like our father she is focused on the game.
Later Brooke will write to me, telling me about the new forward dropping his hands on a break away, telling the goalie where the puck was headed. She will also ask if I noticed the young defender from Ontario, his strength, agility and aggression. All signs according to Brooke that we should enjoy him while we can because he is shortly NHL bound. I read her words smiling, mostly because in my mind they sound as if spoken by our father.