It was great growing up as Ree's little sister. She made up songs, choreographed music videos, built the best Barbie houses, and invented lots of fun games. I idolized her. Lots of people did, I think. For example, my cousin, Princess, rewrote the words to "When You Wish Upon a Star" to express her admiration for Ree. "When you wish upon a star, you will know the Am-a-Ree!" became our anthem.
In those days we lived close enough to the Daddy-O/SPH-1 family to get together often. There were six of us girls between the ages of five and ten, and because they were the oldest (and coolest) we constantly followed Ree (and her counterpart, B) around. Even when they didn't really want us to. And even when it was bedtime. I recall one visit when all six of us (Ree, B, me, Princess, Peanut, and Taffy) crammed ourselves into Ree's top bunk. We were small, but quarters were still tight. (I was on the bottom level of the headboard bookshelf. I believe there was someone else on the top. And did I mention that it was a twin bed?) Tired of all our wiggling, Ree pronounced: "I'll give you a spot, and I expect you to stay there. And that's an order." That "order" may not seem hilarious to you today, but I guarantee if you'd have been there (and thank goodness you weren't!) you'd have been up all night giggling about it too.
Once we were finally situated, Ree treated us to stories, including a retelling of a fantastical dream she'd had about a witch who lived in a giant Hershey bar. Only now do I realize how odd it is that I vividly remember details from her account, but I don't recall a single childhood dream of my own. Further proof of my adoration, I suppose.
Over the years, there were lots of late night stories. We shared a room until Ree graduated from high school. It was a logistical necessity, given the size of our family in relation to the size of our house. But Ree and I also shared friends, clothes, and secrets--none of which was mandatory. She was so generous with me, though I didn't deserve it. I remember one time when I'd ruined something of hers, (Who knows what? It wasn't the first time our "open sharing" relationship left her the loser.) but she did not get angry. She said instead: "That's OK. People are more important than things." It's a lesson I'm still working on.
When we were in high school, we attended early morning seminary together. My dad would wake us up with plenty of time to get ready, but we were never so good at mornings. Often, Ree would come climb in my bed with me--usually right on top of me. Neither of us would stir again until Dad returned 15 or 20 minutes later to ask why we weren't moving yet. Ree would (groggily) reply that she was up, and she was just trying to get me up too. Ah, roommates!
Lucky for me, that wasn't our last chance to live together. After I finished college and before I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, I spent some time visiting Ree and her family in Knoxville, Tennessee. Eventually, I decided to move there. Ree and Toby graciously put me up in their spare room until I found a job and an apartment.
I think I lived with them for about a month, but I have so many treasured memories of Sunday drives along the Dogwood Trail, and spontaneous hikes in the Smoky Mountains that it seems like I was there much longer. (I hope it didn't seem that way to them!) Anyway, I'd always known Ree as an ideal sister, but it was while I lived with her that I saw her as the amazing mother that she is.
Scrapbooking was all the rage with us that summer, and we spent the majority of BigZ's naps sorting through photos and piecing together pages. Before long, BigZ would start to stir and Ree would cheerfully put away her materials and tend to his needs. I loved BigZ past the point of overindulgence (still do), but to me it always seemed like he woke up too soon. Yet Ree was never a bit put out. "People are more important than things (even scrapbooks)," I'd remind myself silently, while I wondered if I'd ever be unselfish enough to be a mom like her.
I'm still working on it. And until I'm there, I hope Ree doesn't mind that I continue to idolize her. Because when I see the evening star, I don't even bother wishing. I don't need to. I have my sister Ree.
Happy Birthday Ree! I love you!
*Names have been changed. Sort of.