Monday, March 17, 2014

Sisterhood of the Traveling St. Patrick' Day

Me, Mom, Barb. Note the missing teeth.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: St. Patrick's Day. Clover, green, leprechans (all hard to envision as i look out my window here in Maine and see nothing but snow, snow, snow.) Irish pubs, parades, corned beef and cabbage, GOING MY WAY and  FINIAN'S RAINBOW.  For me, however, St. Patrick's Day has always been, first and foremost, the day I became a sister. 

My first, my very first memory is of standing in my parents' sun-drenched Montgomery bedroom, peeping into the bassinet that held brand new baby Barbara. (We called her Barbie, of course, a nickname she outgrew before high school. Now she's Barb.) Our later encounters were not so gentle; my mother has a story of the time I dragged my hapless sister in a necklock from her crib to the kitchen, announcing, "The baby was crying." Fortunately the lack of oxygen didn't cause any permanent damage. In our middle childhood, I would tease Barb mercilessly - my favorite was to shriek, "Oh no! You have garments on your back!" I like to think I was responsible for expanding her vocabulary.

She was homecoming queen. With laser eyes, natch.
I was always a little jealous of my sister. She was a beautiful child, with big blue eyes and huge fluffy blonde curls and a heart-melting smile. I had glasses and an eye patch and went without my front teeth for three years after they got knocked out. She had school birthday parties, always St. Patrick's themed, with a green clover cake (my mother always crafted beautiful homemade cakes for us) or green cupcakes for twenty. My birthday was in June, always too late for a school celebration and too early for Independence Day. (Not that I'm complaining. My mom compensated by having our annual  trip to the amusement park on my natal day.) When we were college-aged and in our early twenties, Barb never had to pay for booze on St. Patrick's Day - boys would line up to buy her drinks when she announced it was her birthday.

At the 2009 Inaugural Ball with her HH.

She's grown up to be equally enviable. She's lovely and funny and vivacious, runs a successful face-painting business (no, I am not kidding!) has three handsome boys and a husband who looks like King Leonidas in 300 (no, I'm not kidding about that, either.) I'm not jealous, though, just happy that I have such a wonderful sister in my life.

Reds, please raise your steins of green beer and wish Barbara Scheeler a happy birthday! Who are the sisters and practically-sisters who make your St. Patrick's Day fun?

LUCY BURDETTE: What a nice tribute to your sister--happy birthday Barb! I have to say my older sister, (an "Irish twin" just eleven months older), was very gracious when I came along. We shared a room for most of our years, and teased our younger brother and sister without mercy. Oh, there was the one time that she and my cousin talked me into drinking kerosene from a tap, but I believe that was a friendly mistake:). I still remember the Ipecac, which now I realize was entirely the wrong remedy. 

I have to share my favorite St. Patty's day photo, which was taken by Hallie's husband Jerry several years ago in Key West. These girls have to be sorority sisters, don't you think? Tonka was in doggie heaven....

HALLIE EPHRON: Love that picture, Lucy! Tonka is a real show stopper. Chick magnet. And he basks so effortlessly.

I do not remember when my baby sister (Amy, 4 years younger) was brought home from the hospital. My mother had a baby nurse so it made very little impact on me. I do remember being left holding her on on the couch while my mother went to the bathroom. She rolled off.

Yes, I tortured her growing up. But not nearly as much as she tortured me. She refused to play the roles I assigned her -- baby to my mother, student to my teacher, slave to my queen.  Checkers, decks of cards, Scrabble pieces invariably ended up hurled to the floor with her refusing to pick them up.  But I've always been serenely secure in the knowledge that no matter how hard or how fast she pedals, I'll always be the older one.  Turns out she got the better end of that deal, too.

RHYS BOWEN: Am I the only one who doesn't have a sister? Not fair. I always wanted one but only had a brother seven years younger than me who was a little brat who scribbled with crayon over my homework (he's now an Episcopal minister so I guess he got better with age). And St Patrick's day was not celebrated at all in England. I'm feeling deprived all around. But I've had a wonderful group of women friends all my life--my college friends, with whom I still get together, my hiking friends who are my main therapists, and my mystery friends who turn work into fun. 

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Happy birthday, Barb! Like Rhys, I have no sisters. My mother was Scottish/Protestant and so she would tell me to wear orange on St. Patrick's Day and there were no treats. I always felt a bit deprived of the "Everyone is Irish" thing — but drank a lot of green beer in college to make up for it. Now, for my son, I'm making a green ombre cake. My husband just said, "What is ombre?" And I replied, "Many shades of green." And then he shot back: "50 Shades of Green — isn't that Irish porn?"

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Happy birthday, Barb!! 

No sisters, here, either, alas. But I've been lucky in sisters-in-law; my brother Steve's wife, Dorothy, my husband's sister, Tracy, my husband's brother Jason's wife, Julisa.  Adore them all. And then, of course, there are my Jungle Red sisters!  Raising a green beer to you--as long as I don't have to drink it! (Pic is from Thanksgiving, with Julisa Gary on the left and Tracy Wilson Burns on the right, lovely sises-in law!)

JULIA: Dear readers, I hope you'll join us in birthday wishes, St. Patty's Day reminiscences, and stories of sisters in the comments section!

                        Thanks for being such a great sister, Barb. Happy Birthday!


  1. Happy Birthday, Barb . . . .

    I have two sisters . . . one is nine years younger than me. I remember making her a dress when the Home Economics teacher was teaching us to sew in seventh grade; one of my most vivid memories from our childhood is playing with her in the snow when she was about three and the storm was bad enough that school was closed for three whole days --- when you’re a kid, that’s Christmas, Easter, and your birthday all rolled up together! My other sister is my twin sister, so I’ve never, ever been sister-less. It’s a wonderful thing . . . .

    I’m afraid there’s not going to be any green around here on this Saint Patrick’s Day . . . snow has been falling for hours and I’m despairing of ever seeing my daffodils . . . .

  2. Happy St. Patrick's Day. No sisters, but I do have a son named Patrick. 8239 285

  3. Ooo, I see above why the code failed first try.

  4. Love these comments. I too always wanted a sister - and later in life, as some of you, had college friends who were like sisters. T. Jackie Straw in Manhattan ( note my new name change!)

  5. Happy Birthday, Barb! St. Pat's must be a fun day to have as your birthday - so many people celebrating.

    I have two sisters: one 15 months older and one 17 months younger. (Yes, my family is Irish-Catholic.) Like you, Joan, I have never been sisterless, and cannot recall a time without both of them bookending me.

    We were all together yesterday at the clan's St. Patrick's Day party, along with my 92-year-old Mom, my brother, many nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews. It was a time, as we say.

    When we were wee girls, my sisters and I step danced at these events (and at community events). For this generation at least, that tradition has passed into memory. Even though yesterday's gathering was a highly convivial event, none of us jigged or reeled.

  6. Ah, sisters. Mine is two years younger, and we were never close, despite--or maybe because--our mom dressing us alike and forcing us to share a room/bed/everything when we were kids. But my brother is ten years younger, and he and I have always been very close. Beginning with when he came home from the hospital on Christmas Day, 1961. He was the best present, ever, and because our mom worked I was the designated mother's helper.

    Then in 1999 my mom remarried and her third husband had a daughter a couple years older than I am, an only child all her life. She's the big sister I never had, and we are great friends. When her dad passed away a few years ago she was surrounded by her adopted family, instead of being alone.

    My best friend is also named Barbara, and I call her the sister of my heart. Both of our dads died when we were 17, and we've shared a jillion experiences since we first met in 1977.

    Happy birthday, Barbara! Julia's tribute must be a grand birthday gift.

  7. Awww I'm so touched, thank you !!! It's a fun day to be born on that's for sure. So blessed to have a crazy fun writer sister to make my life as fun as it was growing up. Love ya sis.

  8. I am the oldest of five children, and have two sisters. Because both our brothers died too young, we three have become closer than ever. It's funny how a family thinks about itself. We were the older three (girl, boy, girl) and the little ones (boy, girl). The two little ones were incredibly close. Now we are three. I tried to include a picture from last month (they live in California), but I couldn't figure out how.

  9. Happy Birthday, Barbara Scheeler!

    I'm an only child who always wanted a twin. So I made one up and my imaginary twin was a part of our household for a number of years. God bless parents who raise and understand imaginative children.

  10. Happy birthday, Barb!

    Like Rhys, I only have a brother, and he's seven years younger than I am. But I do love my sister-in-law (his wife).

  11. I am the oldest of five. I have three sisters and one brother. My brother is right in the middle, with two older sisters and two younger ones. (And he's the father of girls, not boys!)

    The sister who is next after me is just about two years younger than I am. I have no memory of how our parents prepared me to be a big sister. However, the minute Mom brought her home from the hospital, I thought she was a present for me, and I was enthralled! I don't ever remember being jealous of her or resenting her, or any of my other siblings. We're all so different from each other, that I guess we just never felt threatened by each other in any way. For the most part, I enjoyed being the oldest - except for being the built-in babysitter, when I would have preferred to do something else!

    We two oldest always referred to the other three as "the little kids", sort of like you and your siblings, Denise Ann.

  12. Happy birthday, Barb!

    I'm the oldest of six plus one half-brother who was given up for adoption, whom I haven't seen since birth. All boys, except for me and my sister, 6 1/2 years younger. I was closer to the boys growing up, but for a long, long time now, my sister and I have been the closest in the family. Wouldn't ever want to be without my dear sister!

  13. Happy Birthday, Barb! I think a St. Patrick's Day birthday would be awesome, especially during the college years, as Julia pointed out.

    Well, I am the baby of my family, which was always rather nice. My older sister, by ten years, was the perfect little mother type when I was little, but the years difference had her pursuing other interests as she got into her teen years. She was the beauty in the family with a calm, cool style that was enviable. Sadly, she passed away ten years ago this June, but she maintained her in control manner to the end. My other sister, who is eight years older, was more like a sister than another mother, as she seemed to like me tagging along. My pet name for her at one point was Poopsie Pie, which she graciously accepted. I owe getting my driver's license to her, as I was rather lackadaisical about it, and she made me go take the driving test. Now I'm an expert driver (don't ask my husband about that, as he's just a cry baby about speed). My only complaint about sisters is that I wish I'd had one closer to my age. My brother is three years older, and he was much more intent on torture than companionship. He does have a wonderfully sweet wife. And, my husband's sister has been a much loved addition to my life over the past 37 years. We live closer to her than to my family, and my two kids are just wild about Teresa.

    Happy St. Patrick's Day to all! I was named Kathleen after the song "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen," so I have much affection for this day. Now, here are a couple of Irish verses for you.

    May the Irish hills caress you.
    May her lakes and rivers bless you.
    May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
    May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you

    And, on a lighter note, to give you a laugh:

    May those who love us love us.
    And those that don't love us,
    May God turn their hearts.
    And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
    May he turn their ankles,
    So we?ll know them by their limping.

  14. Kathy-

    I love it!

    Jack -

    Our "little" (6'2") brother is Patrick. So today is both a birthday and a Name Day in our family!

  15. Susan, I just choked on my apple. 50 Shades of Green .

    Happy birthday, Barb! My sister is almost 8 years younger than I am and my father constantly reminds me of my less-than-enthusiastic reaction to her impending birth ("oh, Mom, not again" - she was the fourth child). Because of the age difference, I was over her when she was born. We weren't enemies, so to speak, but she was the annoying little sister who cut my doll clothes, drew in my books, stole my crayons - and was excused for everything with "Now, she's the baby!" We closed the emotional age gap eventually.

    I suppose my "sister" - the one I wish I had - was my best friend, only six months older than I. We did everything together - including writing mocking comics together (she did the pictures, I did the words).

    And I'm such an American mutt that St. Patrick's Day never loomed large in my childhood. Just another day.

  16. Happy birthday, Barb!

    I have two older sisters. They never let me do anything with their hair while they could braid or pony tail or anything to mine. We're quite close despite being geographically scattered and despite sounding like a bar joke: What do you know when a Mormon, a Buddhist, and a Quaker walk into a bar? (answer: they're the Maxwell sisters).

    And, despite being half Flaherty, I brought nothing green to wear to my book talk at Books Inc. in Berkeley tonight!

  17. I'm the oldest sister. Big brother is 3 yrs older than me; then a 6 year gap after me. Then a sister, 3 years later another sister (now gone) and 3 yrs after her a little brother. So in our family it was always the older 2 and the younger 3, agewise. Fortunately time makes the age gaps irrelevant. We still enjoy torturing each other, or at least thinking about it! Gave up beer for Lent, which was not thought out. So no Guinness today.

  18. Happy birthday and happy St. Patrick's Day! Green is one of my favorite colors so any excuse to wear green is cool in my book.

    I'm enjoying reading other comments here.


  19. Only on St. Patrick's day do I proclaim that "Me grandmother was an O'Bryan!" Probably from Protestant Irish antecedents, but we're still wearing the green--my three sisters and I, along with four brothers. And my youngest sister, also a Barbara, was so beautiful the nurses cried when my mother took her home! So happy birthday Barbara Scheeler, and happy Saint Patrick's Day to all our sisters of the heart--

  20. Happy Birthday, Barb!

    I don't have any sisters or brothers. My mother told me that I had a brother who did not survive birth. My father hinted at siblings in Russia, but I was never able to learn anymore. Growing up during that period after World War II and the Cold War with the Soviet Union it seems impossible to learn anything about possible family.

    I was very close to my cousin Marianne while we lived together with our grandparents for a few years. She was also an only child. When I think of our relationship over the years it seems like we had what many other women described as a sister relationship. We were very close until she married and moved to Texas, but we visited and talked on the phone—a lot! She died tragically very young and with little warning. We were able to visit her before she died, and I'll always be grateful for that.

  21. People celebrate this day with parades, fireworks, live entertainment, Irish dances and jigs, Irish singing, by wearing Leprechaun outfits, clovers with three leaves etc.

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