by iampunha | 6/28/2008 08:00:00 AM
Labor Day was first observed as a U.S. holiday on this date in 1894.

In 1919, World War I ended five years to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Ferdinand were assassinated.

Pat Morita and Gilda Radner were born in 1932 and 1947, respectively.

Three years ago, that subculture made its mark in Canada with the legalization of gay marriage.

On any other day, I would have covered one of those events, or maybe two.

Today is different.

Every diary I have written, with the exception of the two I adapted from other articles, has been written either at work or at home. And every diary I have read since January, I have read from work or home.

Today, as you read this, I am in Chicago. At 3 p.m. Central Standard Time, the wedding of my younger sister, Rosie, begins.

She marries an honorable man, the most I could wish for anyone's sister.

You don't know her, and as I struggle to find the words to introduce you to her, I am greeted by a mental image I have of her at about 5 years old, running to our van, late for a swimming lesson.

But I am also greeted by the fact that she wanted to invited Peyton Manning to her wedding. (Her boy, Andrew, wanted to invite Tom Brady, but we're Colts fans, so that didn't happen.) I wish I'd thought of inviting him, but the resulting puddle of "Peyton ... Manning ... is ... here" would have made for quite the cleanup.

I am greeted by how she helped me put together a CD of familiar sounds in the days before I went off to boarding school in 1995. I never completed the CD, but being able to try helped me deal with the massive misery of leaving home at 13.

Before I went off to boarding school, I lived in the room under hers. We would often talk at night through a vent separating our rooms, mostly to annoy our sister. In a family letter to me later early the next year, she wrote, "I miss scraping the vent and annoying you."

My parents often say that I was their guinea pig (I still randomly twitch on occasion), which probably explains why getting a four-year degree took me eight years and took her just four.

For years, Rosie and I had our brother convinced that he had an identical twin (female — he was young, so he didn't know about fraternal vs. identical twins) named Tammy, who had died at birth. We used to torment him by calling him Tammy. (We told him my parents either didn't remember or were still too traumatized to talk about it. In retrospect, this was perhaps not the nicest thing I have ever done.)

I remember joking with my father that Rosie's five basic food groups were pizza (she picked the mushrooms off), chocolate, hot pockets, bagels and French fries. (She ate like I did, and she looked like I did. I still look largely the same, which is probably why I get so many weird looks.)

My father recently reminded me of how Rosie interpreted "The road's curving left" signs. Every time we got on an exit ramp, a 5-year-old Rosie would ask, "Why are there 'greater than' signs?" Finally we figured out that this gifted mathematician was talking about those >>>>>> on entrance ramps. "Greater than" signs.

Rosie was perhaps all of 4 years old (my mother swears she was 18 months. I don't think so), and we were coming up on her older sister's birthday. Rosie had not gotten her sister a present yet, so my father took her to Toys 'R' Us to find something suitable (which in those days was neither a cell phone nor a Bratz).

Rosie had no problem picking out this suitable present, but my father knew she'd have trouble not sharing its identity with her sister. So all the way home, he coached her on what they would do when they got home.

Daddy: "Now, Rosie, what are we NOT going to do when we get home?"

Rosie: "We're NOT going to tell Peggy what I got her!"

Daddy: "Excellent. And WHOM are we NOT going tell what we got her?"

Rosie: "PEGGY! We're NOT telling her! We're NOT telling PEGGY!"

All the way home he coached her, like it was a very serious game. This was a drive of about half an hour — effectively forever to a child.

This coaching continued as my father parked the minivan. They got out of the car, and he continued to coach her.

Daddy: "Let's go over this one more time, Rosie. Whom are we NOT telling about this present?"

Rosie: "Peggy!"

Daddy: "Excellent. And what are we NOT telling Peggy?"

Rosie: "What I got her!"

Daddy opened the door.

Peggy was in the room.

Rosie shouted, happily: "Peggy! We got you a Heart Family doll!"

My sister had her own mind from a very young age. (Good thing she didn't have to borrow one, I always say.) And Rosie, maybe 2, was in the bathroom one day, contemplating life's great mysteries, such as where bellybutton lint comes from (answer: bellybutton dryers), when she said, "Mouses don't have bottoms."

Clearly she had thought this true, for she anticipated the obvious unspoken question, which I am told did not even need to be asked. She knew what was coming, and she headed it off at the pass.

"They pee on a shark."

Rosie at 3:


Back in 1992, we were driving in a very unsettling part of our directions, and my father told everyone in the car to be silent until we'd finished. We did. He said, "You can talk now."

The next words were from my sister, and they had nothing to do with anything that had happened. No questions about what was difficult, anything like that.

No, a much more ponderous subject, and one she was right to ask about, since a boy at school prompted similar questions.

Rosie, unfettered by social norms and expectations, thought nothing of asking the really tough questions. She was, at 6, a budding Tim Russert.

So she asked, "Why does Ross Perot have such big ears?"

At or around that age, Rosie was (as we all were at 6) fairly slender. And we had a laundry chute in our house, such that we could, y'know, send clothes downstairs.

And canned food, and stuffed animals, and uncanned food, and books, and really anything we wanted — balls were fun, as if you threw them down just right, they bounces back up, and if you didn't, they hit your mother in the side of the face, which was JUST SO MUCH FUN until she caught you. (I think I still owe her an essay on why you shouldn't throw balls down laundry chutes. Talk about hard to BS.)

Rosie and Peggy (who at some point — I don't remember when — became Meg) wanted to know just what you could put down that chute. So Rosie faced away from the chute — you could tell where this was going from the words "laundry" and "chute," right? — and Peggy helped her lower herself into it.

Alas, Rosie was a year or two too old for this, and she got only halfway down.

She freaked out, an entirely natural response for a 6-year-old girl who's gotten caught in the laundry chute. (This was probably the only time the thing was actually sufficiently clear of clothes that Rosie couldn't have stood on them.)

Out of the mouth of this 6-year-old babe came the following:

"Push me up! Pull me up! HELP MEEEEEEEEE!"

Rosie at 6 (front row, second from left, and no, I did not edit out a cigarette):

Around that time, I suppose, my mother had returned from fetching the week's food. (Back then, was no small feat, considering I was eating Bolivia's gross domestic product on a weekly basis, which probably explains Central American poverty of the 1990s.)

One of the trip's hauls was a watermelon, which lasts about 10 minutes when you have four kids.

If the kid carrying it isn't strong enough, it lasts not even that long.

I had taken most of the bags of groceries (ask me some time about my years-long streak of carrying all the groceries inside in one trip), but I needed to hand the watermelon off to someone.

My other sister, the girl who as a 2-year-old carried a rock (we're talking a rock. At least five pounds) around in one hand at her maternal grandparents' house for the hell of it, couldn't handle a watermelon. Understandable. Immediately she realized this, and she cried out, "Somebody help me!"

Too late. The watermelon fell and hit the floor, and a split emerged, out of which watermelon blood (that'll be sugar water to those among you who weren't just traumatized by a watermelon going THUDDY DEATH at your feet) oozed.

Timmy shrieked as though his legs had been cut off.

Rosie fell to the ground to see if she could save the watermelon, looked up in terror, and howled, "It's LEEEEEEEEEEEEAKING!!!"

Rosie was in eighth grade when my father (who them benched in the neighborhood of 500 pounds) drove her and some of her classmates to a place where they were doing a science experiment. He was wearing a tank top, as usual. He doesn't remember what he said, but she said, "You're not as buff as you used to be, Papa, but that's OK, I still love you, people are allowed to get fat when they get old."

Rosie in 8th grade:


I remember quite easily — because the story has survived in practice — how a girl we took in for some weeks (long story) couldn't say my name, so she called me Patris. That girl hasn't lived with us in 13 years, but my sisters (and my father, on occasion) still call me Patris ... or anything else that isn't my name.

From my mother, unedited from e-mail:

"Rosie is short and cute. She has a high voice, and she mostly doesn't use big words. People who don't yet know her assume that she is of average intelligence at best and probably a pushover for anything.

This makes her family laugh. Rosie always gets her way. Always. You just don't always know that she did. She might even have persuaded you that something was your idea.

You should have seen her play soccer. She looks like a strong wind would blow her over, but you've never seen such determination. She played striker, and she was death on defenders. She wasn't mean, mind you, just single-minded, not to mention talented.

And as for average intelligence -- she got into Northwestern U., which is no mean feat. She took six AP classes and had about a year's worth of college credit when she started. (Northwestern doesn't accept most of them, but she still finished a little bit early.) She got a 5 on her AB Calculus exam. (She didn't feel like doing the extra work of taking BC Calculus.) So when she got to college, she didn't have to take any math. However, she found to her surprise that she missed it. She got her math fix by helping her first-year roommate with calculus."

Coordinating my parents' 20th wedding anniversary was interesting. If memory serves, not one of us kids had a driver's license, so taking them somewhere magical and mysterious was out of the question.

So she and our sister recorded "Still the One" for them. (My parents tell us that everyone they told they were getting married said that was a bad idea. Twenty-nine years later ...) We ordered some food, and then I think our sister called in to a local radio station during their request hour to get them to play "In My Life."

This is what we looked like:





Blogger Unknown on 6/29/2008 3:44 AM:

Congratulations to your sister!!! And thanks for all the hard work you put in around here -- it's much appreciated.