Tuesday, May 6, 2008

My Gal Pal Sal

Sal and me in the '80s.

My cousin Sally came to visit from Michigan this weekend. Except for some great years when we both lived in Chicago at the same time (for a while as roommates), we've had to cross multiple state lines for our get-togethers.

On Saturday afternoon as Sally was leaving, Mia was playing with her new mermaid doll in a bubble bath so she didn't want to get out. Sally in her sweet and understanding way came into the bathroom, hugged soapy Mia and made her laugh saying "Blub, blub, blub! Now I've got bubbles on my arms, on my legs, on my face!"

Sally left the room calling, "Bye!" and Mia burst into tears. I completely understood. I always get sad when Sally has to leave, too. My cousin is such a magical and amazing person, she turns everything into fun.

"Do you want to get out and give her a dry hug, honey? You can get back in the bathtub afterwards." Still sobbing, Mia nodded yes. I helped her get her slippery self out the tub, then into the shower to rinse off all the bubbles -- there really were a lot. She's still crying, crying as she stands in the spray. I tell her Sally will wait for her. I tell her we'll see Sally again in August. Then, still crying, she asks, "Could you hand me the mermaid doll?"

This was one of many laughs over the weekend. (Nora had a similar moment last night when she commenced wailing because Daddy told her to go back into the bathroom until she has finished brushing her teeth, but skipped and hopped her way there, in tears.)

My cousin is one the most fascinating people I've ever met. Our conversations tumble with the overlapping things we want to tell each other. I almost cried with relief before she arrived, just at the thought of spending time with her and for days afterward I'm coming up with more forgotten sticks for the conversational fire we kept tending til the wee hours.

Here's Sally and me and Nancy in the 1960's.

She had news and gossip from the tiny Michigan tourist town where her husband is a volunteer fire-fighter - stories like The Bartendress's Revenge, The Tryst Gone Bad (this one resembled the opening to a CSI episode), The Sword-in-a-Cane Fight.

We talked about movies and the New York Times, about the meaning of the words "frisson" and "paen," about trying neighbors and the difference between femininity and female and about my confusion why people continue to talk about race as an important issue that is separate from ethnicity.

She confessed to a thrill (a frisson! That I shared!) when her husband Erik announced he had purchased a device that was able to measure the precise amount of energy being used by their tiny downstairs freezer. When they figured out that freezer was preserving 40 pounds of lake-caught salmon for three cents a day, I realized they are close to living the Green Dream. They heat their house most of the time with a high efficiency wood-burning stove, using wood from the neighbors' downed trees. Sally freezes the local blueberries, peaches and raspberries available from the Edenic bounty of the nearby farms. They have their own garden where Sally plant potatoes with charming names like "German Buttterball."

Saturday was kind of a challenging day because Sally and I had stayed up all hours the night before and the girls were so excited that she was here that they bounced out of bed before 7:00. But most of the time we were having fun, being silly, being cousins who know each other really really well but still have so much to learn.

We tried to gather the energy and organization to go to the Volo Bog, but we were also making a lasagna and it was sporadically raining so we eventually just spent the whole day at home. Wimpy, I know, but these days I get very confused when I'm tired and just assembling lunch had me standing in the middle of the kitchen, not sure which end was up, longing for bed, but also wishing for more hours in the day to spend with my friend.


2KoP said...

Love your blog's new look.

Julia Buckley said...

Sally sounds awesome! Some day I'm going to visit her in Michigan. :)