Monday, November 26, 2007
Bert and Ernie
When I recently came across this photo of that occasion, I couldn't help but remember the private joke Selena and I shared as children. It is so evident in this picture of us: I was Bert and she was Ernie from PBS. Our childhood days played out like one long, extended episode of the B & E apartment segments on Sesame Street.
Can you see it? I was long-faced, yellow, and boring. Selena was round-faced, red, and full of mischief.
The day this photo was taken, I was modestly glad that I had won the contest. As a rule, I practiced coloring inside the lines for hours on end each week. My crayon box was my life. I knew I wasn't doing my best if the crayon strayed even into the blackness of the line, because if you tipped the picture in the light, the waxy mark was obvious against the outline. When my mom told me to stand against the bulletin board in the store, I felt it was my duty to smile, but all the fuss made me feel self-conscious.
Notice Selena: Could her smile be any bigger? Of course she was happy for me, but she admits to being happy for herself because she knew Mom and Dad would make me share my new stuff. I don't even think she felt guilty about that. Just happy. "Life is FUN, Bert! Hee Hee Hee."
Just like Ernie, Selena never wasted time worrying if someone liked her or not. Her extroverted, social butterfly, little self barged through life with zest and a loving heart. One of her major goals was to secure large amounts of time for having fun and enjoying herself. In this pursuit, I was her faithful Bert. Gullible sounds more poetic, though... Once, during our younger years, Selena called up the staircase that Mom said the dishes had to get done. I grumbled downstairs and proceeded to wash away. When I had almost finished, Mom came in from weeding the garden and was taken by surprise. "What are you doing?" she asked. "You told me to do the dishes," I replied. Selena breezed though the room and casually dropped the hint that Mom had only told her the dishes had to get done. Selena had been outside reading Charlotte's Web or something. Apparently, it was all very funny.
Thankfully, one of Selena's other priorities was teaching her older sister (me) how to laugh. I was somber by nature, but Selena managed to coax some humor out of me anyway. An example of her commitment to my lightness of heart was "The Collection!": When I least expected it, she would take a snapshot of me looking my worst. She started an album, and hid it well so I couldn't destroy it. When I was feeling really bummed about life, she'd bring it out and point to one photo after another. She would laugh so hard at how ridiculous I looked and at the story behind it that eventually I would end up laughing too. She still treasures those obnoxious, compromising photos and adds to her "Collection" from time to time. If I had been an optimistic person, I might have held out hope of her outgrowing her pranks. Thank goodness I was a pessimist, because I would have been disappointed anyway.
So now, almost 30 years later, Selena is planning trips to exotic places and singing with the Beastie Boys as she drives to work. I am trying to get some rest without people bothering me, and talking of nothing besides my sheep. But as sisters, I believe we are more than the sum of "her plus me." What would I do if she didn't pester me into being silly? How would she get by if I didn't bring unsolicited, factual information to her attention? I don't mind being Bert, as long as Ernie is around.