In the deep recesses of my mind, tucked away in a well-protected crevasse is Heartland. Memories of my boyhood reside there. It is a place where a boy’s picturesque view of his world makes time stand still. I do not often go there, but when I do a warm memory always welcomes me. Let’s go there now. A memory of my boyhood is waiting for us.
As beams from the big, buttery moon squeeze through my bedroom window, into my bed I crawl. A day reviewed, a book passage read, and prayers said, Pamela bids me goodnight. Off she goes to her bedroom, leaving behind a moonbeam-eclipsing smile that is a fitting end to a day lived well.
Pamela, fresh from celebrating her October birthday, is older than me by three years and two months. She is taller, wiser, a better reader, and is a much better piano player than me. On Sunday, at church, she holds my hand when I get fidgety during Dad’s sermon and as we sing How Great Thou Art our two meek voices become one.
Monday through Friday, Fall through Spring; together we walk to school, along the way talking about assignments, teachers, and classmates. During dinner, Pamela eats her vegetables so I will eat mine. If, during dinner, I leave the table to do my bathroom business, upon my return, never fail, she will ask, “did you wash your hands.” Pamela is my big sister, and as you are probably figuring out, she is a darn good one.
Around home Pamela and I are constant companions. We clean house, help Mom with dishes, hang laundry, and feed my dog, Major. When not doing chores, we sometimes read (actually she reads, I listen). Other times we play games—checkers, Clue, Mr. Potato Head. Periodically, we use crayons to draw pictures. Her renderings are much truer than mine, but I do not care. Once, we glued together a model car and had fun spray-painting it bright red. The forts I construct by draping sheets and blankets over furniture lead her to laugh and say, “Silly you”. When she practices the piano, I must practice too. She calls me a “distraction” and says I play like “a dork”. Whatever it is that Pamela and I do inside the house, it is always more thoughtful than physical.
When I go outside—summer, weekends, or after school—I nearly always go without Pamela. When I hang out in the tree house, bicycle around town, swim at the nearby reservoir, or play ball I do so alone or with other kids, never with Pamela. She and I have an unspoken understanding about this. Inside we are together, but not outside. Moreover, every night, in my room, basking in the moon’s light, Pamela and I relive my day outside. If I am tired from all the sun and activity and am too sketchy, invariably she will say, “Go deeper, Mark-E. Tell me more” Then, my duty fulfilled, she reads to me, we say our prayers, and off to our beds we go. In my bed, as sure as the moon gives rise to the tides, rains, waters, and seasons I give thanks to God that Pamela is my big sister and pray for our future.
Our home, my parent’s network of friends, and the church ladies form a protective cocoon around Pamela. Inside, she spends time reading girly books, napping, or playing with girlfriends, mostly dolls or dress-up. Nearly everyday, when Mom and Dad are not listening, she tells me, “I get lonely when you’re outside”. Phone calls with friends (mostly girl stuff), trips to the nearby library, or matinees at the movie theatre are nice but not enough for Pamela. “If only I could be out in the sunshine with you—running, jumping, and carefree,” she says. My heart aches as I feel her words. Dad says, ““Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”. I wonder, when will Pamela’s time come?
No one tells me why Pamela must stay safely protected inside. Or why she never gets to climb, pedal, or paddle as I get to do. Seizures, birth defect, and tragedy are words the church ladies whisper. Dr. Smith stops by monthly, sometimes more, to see Pamela. After spending time with her, he pats my head but says little. When Mom, Dad, and Pamela go to Des Moines, Mrs. Baker, a super-nice grandmotherly neighbor, cares for me in their absence. “They’re consulting a specialist,” is the only thing she tells me.
It would be nice to know the full story about Pamela. Someday, I surely will. For now, she knows more than I know, but neither of us knows much. Regardless, the adults in Pamela and my lives, the ones in the know, are quite supportive and worried about her, and act strangely around me. This is not fair. We deserve to know.
What I do know is the unspoken understanding Pamela and I share. When outside, I go all-out and hold nothing back. Sun in my face, breeze blowing through my hair, grass stains on my knees, I chase after boyhood as though my life depends on it. Knowing in my heart that the simple pleasures I experience outside, are not available to Pamela inside. So during my outdoor life, I live big. I make each campout a grand adventure. Every ballgame is the seventh game of the World Series or the Super Bowl. My tree house is a pirate ship. People who come near it do so at their own peril.
Wherever I am, whatever I do, I do it for Pamela with all my heart. Our relationship is like a faraway moon softly reflecting the light of a distant and more active sun. I am her Sun, she is my Autumn Moon. The calm, reflective time we spend together, nourishes my soul, softens my heart, and deepens my compassion for the isolated, ill, and infirmed.
On this trip to my Heartland, memories of my big sister Pamela remind me that my use of time—outside and inside—is my life’s reflection. Every second reveals who I love, what I cherish, and the person I am becoming. The importance of an active boyhood shared with a loving sister, whose moon is surely waning, could not shine brighter.
Note: This is the ninth post in the Heartland Series. Please click the follow button on the right side of the blog page to be notified of future posts.