My sister is a special ed teacher.
‘Tis a noble and challenging profession and I admire her deeply.
But…..(and there always is one, right?) she has developed an aversion to communing with anyone under the age of 18 during the summer months unless it’s her own grandchild who is the messiah so you might want to pull out your Rapture Preparedness Kit and keep it handy unless you’re one of us who will more than likely be left behind.
So, sister has to get on a plane to come see me and this means lots of kids crammed on airplanes with Hello Kitty suitcases and bad moods whose parents have all lost the ability to hear.
It’s the same every year. I endure The Questioning of the Hostess.
There won’t be any kids at your house, right?
No. Your son and your nephew are childless, your grandson lives in Canada and I don’t have a uterus so there’s been no miracle birth at my house lately.
I know that, smart ass! I mean none visiting or anything.
Did we just meet?
And she arrives.
I see her coming down the escalator at the airport.
What? No hug? We get to the baggage claim and still no public display of affection.
See that kid over there? The one in the striped shirt?
She points to a nice looking boy of about 11 across the carousel holding the hand of another little kid. They wave at her. She plasters on a steel trap grin and nods her head.
She speaks through gritted teeth.
He started talking in Kansas City and didn’t stop until we got to San Jose. He and his little brother were unaccompanied minors.
Are those his grandparents?
A nice older couple also waves. They’re a cheery bunch and it distresses my sister even more as overly cheery people often do. I can relate.
My sister begins to crumble.
Oh, god. He wore me down. It was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve never seen her like this.
It scares me.
Who was this alien creature and what has it done with my sister???
Do you need a Valium?
You don’t understand. I think it was some sort of Twilight Zone thing like that one episode where William Shatner sees the creature on the airplane wing but no one will believe him?
She is more agitated now and I think I’m on the verge of panic myself.
Stay calm. Blink hard.
This was fate kicking my ass. I know it. I mean, it was like he had a mission or something. I know EVERYTHING about him. I know that his mother died when he was 4 and his step-mother is really nice but she’ s not a multi-tasker and has to go take a nap if she has to juggle dinner and homework at the same time. I know his father doesn’t believe in any of that Buddist nonsense. I know about every kid in his class and how one of them was in special ed and how he always wondered if retarded people ever grew out of being retarded and I told him, unfortunately no, but I knew adults who had actually grown IN to it. Oh, god. I actually had conversations with this kid.
I pull my sister over to a bench and sit her down. She wiggles out of her overstuffed backpack.
Let’s try a little levity to ward off the meltdown since funny cures everything.
Damn, Wily Coyote! What’s in this thing. An anvil? I think you might have damaged a vertebrae or cut off blood to your brain. Okay, there you go. Panic’s over. It’s all good, right?
She looks me straight in the eye.
I will never complain again.
Cool. Let’s go get your bag and we’ll be out of here in a jif. What does it look like?
It’s black. And sqaure.
Fast forward to the farewell.
My sister smiles and wraps her arms around me at curbside. We have had a wonderful time together. She insisted on going places where there would a critical mass of screaming, unruly children. It was glorious.
But now it was time to go.
Her backpack is light as a feather since I removed the travel iron, the blow dryer, the Ugg slippers, the giant Harley Davidson sweatshirt and full change of clothes that she packed “just in case”. She has her passport even though she is travelling within the confines of our own country. She claims it’s easier than pulling out her driver’s license.
I love you.
I love you too but I love kids even more. I mean, I really, really love them!
And I watch her leave.
And I am alone again.