Heather was born in 1962. One of my earliest memories of my sister is like a snap-shot photo, so clear:
Imagine a living room of the era – a couch and an end table with a tall shaded lamp set on it. Mommy was sitting on the couch with a neat bundle in her arms and Dad stood nearby. Mommy asked me, “Lori, would you like to hold the new baby?” A miniature face was all you could see peeping out of the blanket – two navy-blue eyes, translucent white skin and a tiny pair of pursed red lips. Mother and child seemed other-worldly; like a mirage, flickering on and off.
I was six years old and although I clearly did not remember Mommy being pregnant or even know there was a baby on the way, the moment Heather was brought home from the hospital remains vivid. Heather is the youngest of four children – George was eight, I was six and Diane was four years old when Heather arrived. With the age gap it was, for Mom and Dad, like starting over.
I see my sister now at one year of age: she’s in a pale pink child’s coat with a rounded collar and mother-of-pearl buttons down the front, styled for a baby, like a smock. Wisps of black hair surround her face, eyes with dark lashes lend more intensity of vision to the small being. The sweet, small round face has the rosiest cheeks and a smile that epitomizes the essence of innocence and raw joy.
We all loved her to bits; she was a beautiful baby and child as she grew up. What distinguished Heather from her towhead siblings was that she most closely resembled our Mother. It wasn’t just her dark hair and features, it was also her quietude, her presence and her access to joy at any given time.
We all grew up and eventually left home. George went off to university at sixteen, I ran off to Vancouver at eighteen and married my boyfriend Owen and Diane moved to Halifax, became a farrier and met a fellow in her apartment complex, whom she married. Heather still lived at home in Newfoundland with Mom and Dad so she could finish her high school year. She was a bit of a homebody and wistfully claimed one day she would like to build a little yellow house with a white picket fence in Mom and Dad’s backyard.
She and Mommy would lie side-by-side on the couch each afternoon and watch Another World. They would drink coffee and chat, and some evenings when Dad was out of town they would have a rum and orange juice and have a great time laughing and carrying on. When she was 19 she thought about moving to Halifax like George and Diane, and Mom said to her, “I will give you this diamond ring (she won it at a function) if you don’t leave home until you are twenty-one”. Heather did stay until she was twenty-one, but not because of the ring. The last little bird in the nest was happy just where she was and the mother bird was in no hurry to have her fledgling fly off.
Dad held an executive position with the Newfoundland government in the Department of Tourism. There were many occasions where he would be invited to functions and he and Mom would get dressed to the ‘nines’ and go out on the town. When Mommy would get ready, Heather was there to help. All the beautiful dresses Dad insisted on buying Mom from the fancy dress shops in St. John’s hung in her closet, waiting for Heather and Mom to ‘decide what to wear’. Heather would gently loop Mommy’s gold-fan earrings into her pierced ears and pass her lipstick, along with the glass bottle of Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew perfume. With a final twirl and a nod, Mom and Dad were out the door. The closeness between Heather and Mom was unusual and special.
Later in life, we all had children of our own and eventually there were six grandchildren who were blessed to have such wonderful grandparents; the love and care continued on. Then Mommy, who was never sick a day in her life and never took so much as an aspirin (and we all took pride in this), began showing signs of Alzheimer’s around the age of 74. We all looked after her as we would tend to our most beautiful garden – our Mother. Her husband and children doted on her and every day was a new day of taking turns living in the moment, along with her. And, could Heather make her laugh! She’d wake her up from a dream, invoke moments of lucidity where once again ‘two mischievous, dark-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, red-lipped fairies’ communed.
Photos courtesy of Lori Carroll – all rights reserved
Guest Author Bio
Lori is a free spirit who writes poetry and lyrical prose…often dealing with her family and personal experience. She lives in a magical and artistic fairy garden on a river far from the madding crowd but ventures forth episodically to test the waters of the mundane world before fleeing back to her realm.