A Tale of Two Sisters

“I feel so privileged to be entrusted with these heirlooms! You can be sure I’ll take good care of them.” Pearl took the box from her cousin’s arms and set it on the table in her hallway.

He  shrugged. “Whatever. I still think we should just toss them. Why dredge up old bones? You’ll find Mom had a lot of them.”

“Maybe.” Pearl smiled sympathetically. His mother, her Aunt Matilda, seemed to specialize in old bones.

“But you’re young yet,” she said. “When I was your age the past was ancient history; I was out to remake the world. Since I’m retired I think more about our past and what we’ve inherited. I’ll try to be discreet, though, when I compile the Family History; if the Aunties wrote anything nasty about anyone I certainly won’t record it. Maybe I should even tear those pages out of the journals?”

“Who cares? I’m sure most of the folks they wrote about are dead now. Anyway, suit yourself, I’d best be off.”

“Chip off the old block,” Pearl murmured after the door was shut. She looked at the stacks of books in the box and thought of the two sisters, Mabel and Matilda. Each of them had her own way of looking at life; each recorded her perspective in these journals.

The years were good to Mabel and Matilda, both of them lived into their nineties before they passed away. After their demise Pearl heard all their journals were to be destroyed; hoping to write a family history book someday she begged permission to look through them before the grim sentence was carried out. Then her cousins decided since Pearl was the only one in the family with enough patience to pore through them and prudent enough not to blab the contents, she could have the lot.

Pearl had breathed a sigh of relief; so much information would have been lost! Now the precious books were in her hands. She carried the box to the coffee table, set it down and started sorting the collection into years.

Skimming through Aunt Mabel’s slapdash version of the late 20’s, Pearl could picture her so clearly, a teenager eager for life. She smiled. Aunt Mabel would have been a flapper! It will be interesting to see how she coped during the Depression years, Pearl thought. Good thing she couldn’t see the future right then.

She set 1928 down and flew through the years to 1985; Aunt Mabel was widowed by now and enjoying outings with her children and grandchildren. Then Pearl picked up Mabel’s diary from 2000 and noted that she still found interesting little news items to report every day. Perhaps a caller popped in or she took a walk. If she couldn’t get out she wrote about the weather and other things she observed from her window. Spring blossoms excited her; birds in nearby branches were noted in her books; she described in detail the trees turning color in fall. She wrote with humor about the Y2K panic.

Yes, that was Aunt Mabel. Always interested in life and the people around her, always ready to visit and relate humorous little stories that gave everyone a chuckle. She stayed as active as she could for as long as possible and when she was too frail to get out family members stopped in to share her good cheer.

Then Pearl picked up one of Aunt Matilda’s 1990s diaries to read, but soon found herself fighting sleep.  “Nothing much happened today” was the most frequent entry, coupled with complaints about the rheumatism which kept her from getting out or the fact that no one had called.

Pearl remembered Aunt Matilda telling her once, “I never call anyone. I don’t want to be a bother. Anyway, if they want to talk to me, they know my number.”

Another time she complained, “Seems like whenever I do phone someone they’re quick to say they have something pressing and have to run. Folks these days are just too busy to talk.” Though Pearl was sympathetic and never contradicted, she got the feeling folks were eager to get away from Auntie’s litany of woes.

As elderly widows they’d lived together for over fifteen years, looked out the same windows at the same changing scenes, but one had seen beauty and one had seen monotony.

Pearl could remember Aunt Mabel grabbing her raincoat and umbrella, off for a walk in the rain while her sister sat by the fire with her sore joints and wouldn’t do handwork or read for fear she’d ruin her eyes. Mabel went out to search for life while Aunt Matilda expected life to come in and tickle her. Which seldom happened.

Such a shame, she thought as she closed the bleak diary. She stood up and walked over to the window, savoring the bright morning. She watched a robin dash in and out of the sprinkler spray.

“Now,” she said, “I know some people I should be calling.”

This is one of the stories you’ll find in my upcoming book.
Note: this is copyright material. Please respect my rights as author and do not copy.

 

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