Most of the snapshots of my life are held in the photo albums of my mind. Some were captured by a camera, and those pictures I keep in a shoebox under my bed. I'm lucky to have "shoebox photos" of the earliest things I can remember. For example, three days after my third birthday, Katherine Emily arrived. I remember my dad taking me to see my new baby sister; we stopped at a gas station on the way to the hospital and bought my mom candy and a cola.
That day, the camera caught the tiny smile only a big sister could have as she holds one of the best birthday presents ever. I don't take up even half of a blue hospital chair as I cradle Katie in my arms. She is wrapped all in white, like the little angel that every baby is. My white, hooded sweatshirt has faint patches of sky blue, and just a tiny crimson triangle of a T-shirt peeks out from behind the zipper. Looking closer, a third person can be seen: my mother's wrist-banded hand holds Katie's head up. My tiny arms weren't quite strong enough for that task.
That was the first time I ever posed with Katie. Looking at that photo makes me remember all the other pictures I have of Katie and me, even when there was no camera with film and batteries ready to go. It's these pictures that I'll never lose.
Before Katie and I went off to school, we spent our days in the tunnels and caves of cardboard boxes and secret hideaways under the kitchen table. Our house has never been short on toys (there were six kids born before Katie and me), but boxes have always been a favorite. I remember being able to easily slide through the long passageways, my back not even brushing against the "ceilings" of our tunnels and forts. Katie had an even easier time but often needed a flashlight in the darkness. Our cities of cardboard were draped in rainbows of blankets and quilts. On the insides, however, the less light we had, the better. It's too bad my memory camera has no flash.
"Picture Sales" were the basis for the kids' economy in our house. Competition was fierce in our system of capitalism. Jake is three years older than I am, and I'm three years older than Katie, but we all tried to outdo each other drawing pictures, attractively placing them around our bedrooms, and bringing in the customers. Prices ranged from 1 to 25 cents, and we loved counting the money at the end of the night. Katie and I often combined our assets and tried to steal Jake's business. Our walls were lined with neat rows of crayon drawings. We stocked anything from flowers to people, but supportive parents and older siblings made purchases from all of us.
Katie and I loved having our big sister Megan take us for summer walks. She was in high school, and hanging out with her added "coolness" to our status at Winkler Elementary. Filled with excess energy on the way to the park, beach, or the Hunny Tree gas station for pop and candy, we always loved to run ahead. Megan would...