If you've been reading the comments that often accompany my postings, then you might have noticed that I'm not really writing this blog all by myself. There is someone else filling in the blanks and elaborating on who I am and where I come from on these "pages." My sister, Maria (Cuban Code Name "Ia") has twelve years of stories, scenarios and family history on me. I welcome her input, because I'm learning more from this than I would from waiting for my mother to be tipsy enough to spill the beans about anything. And because she's my sister. I can't think of a better person to cheer me on and help me out.
All of the people around us they say, "Can they be that close?"
Well, yes, we can be. My sister was a second mother to me. I say was because she now has two lovely children of her own and I'm grown enough to see her as something other than a mother figure. Being the only other girl meant looking after the baby (me) when our parents weren't around. In order to not to miss out on the action of being a teenager, she and our brother (who's comments on this blog I am still eagerly awaiting) would take me places I probably had no business being. I recall a lot of hanging out on Bergenline Avenue. Then again, my parents took me to bars and social clubs, so there's no one person to blame for my affinity for barstools. If my memory serves, my siblings taught me how to properly defend myself when some of their friends would tease me (NOTE: The Abreus do not endorse teaching a five-year old to give "the finger." It just so happened that I was very comfortable using it when necessary. NEVER at school or church, just on the street. God, that sounds terrible). I am known among some (or one) of these people as "Senor Lopez."
If my father was the gold standard for a sharp dressing, then my sister was my personal style icon. She always looked cool and elegant no matter where she was going. And she would buy me nice things to wear too! Does a little girl need $70 white patent leather shoes for First Communion? Probably not, but I got them anyway. I believe my father's reaction was the Spanish equivalent to "Say what?!?!" This would serve as an important lesson for the rest of my life. Good shoes are very important (and sometimes very expensive). My sister worked at Schlesinger's, the local department store, so she got a good deal on clothes for me. Did I mention she worked in the boys' department? Yeah, I had an Izod shirt in every color. My favorite was the pink and purple striped polo that I would wear it with my pink Osh Kosh overalls. (Jealous?) Ia would do my hair for school and special occasions like Prom, too (yes, I had long hair once and no, I'm not ready to show you a picture). I had the Princess Leia buns, the Princess Leia loops, the Bo Derek corn rows (there is no place for those beads in the second grade, by the way) and all sorts of other braids and ponytails. My sister was also responsible for all but two of my Halloween costumes, from Kindergarten through Senior year of high school. Sadly, I have not been properly costumed since.
It was my sister who deposited me at the University on that scary first day (she wanted to take me home as soon as she "met" my roommate, who was yelling at her parents for forgetting the Ralph Lauren pillowcases), who took the phone call after I lost my virginity, who called to tell me about my father's cancer. Oh, yes, we're on the phone quite a bit. She's been there to talk about boys (the good, the bad and the crazy), clothes (what shoes with this dress?) and everything in between (what the hell is happening on All My Children?) At our best, we talk every single day and at our weakest, we average two or three calls a week. A lot of the calls now open with "guess what your mother did now?" or some news of the kids.
My sister spoiled me, in her own way. She bought me books (A&P had a series of Sesame Street books once, she bought me every last one), let me read her fashion magazines and stay up late to watch television (the Honeymooners was "our" show). She protected me when my parents would fight, came to my gymnastics meets and school plays, listened when I needed it and always encouraged me to believe in myself. When people tell me they think my sister is a good mother, I think to myself, "she had a lot of practice."
Some people worry about turning into their mother, I'm hoping I turn into my sister.