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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thinking of Chris

As my sister prepares to start a new job in New York, I re-post this blog from 2012:

Whenever we talk about our childhood, Chris recalls the various tortures she inflicted on me.  I do not deny these occurred, but they do not form as prominent a feature in my memory as they seem to in hers.  Perhaps part of the reason these incidents loom so large is because my now-defunct comic strip, "Sibling Revelry," featured a brother and sister, not unlike ourselves, and I frequently drew from childhood experience.  Let's face it, bad stuff makes better entertainment than good stuff.

But sitting in the doctor's office waiting to have some fluid drawn from my knee, the classical radio station played an organ piece, and a scene from my childhood flashed back.  I do not know its name, but it was ponderous and turgid and you could almost see Lon Chaney's skeletal delight as he leans back, elbows locked, pressing down the keys with heavily-veined hands.  It was a piece Chris and I used as intro music when we recorded vampire melodramas on a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  We'd start off with a good creepy blast of organ music, then ad lib an encounter in an old castle replete with plenty of squeaky doors and crashing thunder (the latter of which required a good mouthful of spit to do properly, not unlike machine-gun fire.)

Another thing we liked to do was put on little skits for my mother.  I can't think of why Mur tolerated this, but she'd sit there acting for all the world as if this were the best entertainment you could hope for, as Chris and I improvised goofy rambling scenes about desert islands or detectives or whatever.  Maybe part of the reason was because Mur set us up to perform for Meemaw and Great Aunt Bessie whenever we went down to visit.  We'd have to sing "Senor Don Gato" or "The Bold Fisherman," which at first we dreaded, but later secretly looked forward to.  Mur was an early contributor to our love of being in the spotlight.

We were both avidly interested in drawing, and once Chris challenged me to see who could draw a better hand.  Our maid was to be the judge.  I labored putting in the parenthetic wrinkles on the knuckles and the little white scallops at the base of the fingernails.  Chris drew four aces and a king.  Chris won.

Chris began drawing these gorgeously funky words in the shapes of what they were describing, so that "bird" for example, looked like a bird, where the letters were so puffy and interlocked, all the negative space closed up.  You've seen the sort of thing, I'm sure, but in Sandersville, Georgia, 1970, it was the coolest thing since Sesame Street. 

I tried my hand at it, but wasn't much good, so instead Chris and I started drawing mazes.  We'd fill an entire sheet of notebook paper with narrow twisting corridors, no wider than a pencil shaft, and present them to each other to solve.  What generosity that was!  An hour toiling on a labyrinth of coils and serpentines, that would be ruined once the triumphant pencil stroke found its way from the little bubble of "start" to the pirate x of "end."

All this is pretty random, and if you've read this far, you're a better audience than I deserve.  But it's the sort of thing that goes through your mind when you hear a snatch of music you haven't heard in years.  What would childhood have been like without my sister?  I cannot imagine.  She is in every corner and nook of my past.

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