Audrey Lanier Andersen has starred in many of my favorite scenes in the movie of my life. Her life was always more interesting than mine, and so I followed her around everywhere and smothered her with too much little-sister attention. In retrospect, I suppose I often drove her to the brink of insanity.
As sisters, we shared a small bedroom in our family’s ranch-style house in Bonaire, Georgia. I watched her apply her makeup and curl her hair before dates, her leaning way back in a wooden chair in front our big dresser mirror. She was a cheerleader, and she practiced her cheers and jumps—high, sprawling, precise Spread Eagles and Herkies—in front of that same big mirror for hours, landing softly on the gold, shag carpet that covered our home’s concrete slab. I wore her stylish hand-me-downs clothes, which because of Audrey’s meticulous nature, were always in near-perfect condition. And after she got her driver’s license and her own car (a powder blue Volkswagen), I took my place in the passenger seat next to her to run errands and take joy rides all over town.
I was my sister’s sidekick, and I never questioned or minded her being my boss or leader. I was more than willing to follow along.
My sister wrote and contributed a story for Project Keepsake. The story features a scrap of paper my father left for her just days before he died in 1992. He had scribbled some lottery numbers on the paper intending for her to play the numbers in the Illinois state lottery. Her story begins on page 97.
Several readers have remarked, “Wow, both you and your sister chose to write about keepsakes that remind you of your dad. He must have been quite a man.”
Yes, he was. I miss him every day. We all do.
Sometimes when my thoughts drift back in time, I see my sister, my dad, and I together doing things. I see us picking blackberries near my Grandmother Lanier’s farmhouse outside of Metter, Georgia. We had crossed through a neighbor’s (Mr. Rat’s) barbed-wire fencing to get to some of the largest, most succulent blackberries I’d ever seen in my life, all the while keeping our eyes glued on a big, ornery bull that stood guard nearby. The three of us picked berries as fast as our hands could move, filled our bowls, jumped back through the fence, then walked back to Grandmother’s house via the dirt road that crossed the branch. Mom, Grandmother, and my Aunt Colleen whipped up scrumptious blackberry cobbler that afternoon, and my sister, my father and I told the tale of risking our lives so that the family could have dessert.
Another memory that comes and goes is of the three of us canvassing the woods around Lizella, Georgia in Decembers in search of the perfect red cedar tree to complement our Christmas festivities. Audrey and I chose the tree, and Daddy cut it down, dragged it to the truck, and drove the three of us home. My sister and I spent hours decorating the tree, and arguing about the amount of tinsel to toss over its branches. My brother and I loved flashing, gaudy, Las Vegas style Christmas trees—the kind that cause perfectly healthy individuals to have seizures. Audrey was a minimalist and stood her ground to ensure our trees remained classy and tasteful.
Again, everyone in my family misses my father, but Audrey and I have both written some of our memories down. We have photographs, memories, stories, and our keepsakes to help keep him close to us.
Thanks again to my sister for writing such a wonderful tribute to my father for Project Keepsake and for the sisterly love she has showered upon me for half a century.
I know you have a keepsake—or two, or three. Share your story with me and the world.
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