Erva is four years older than me. She is my Rock of Gibraltar, my Amazon Warrior Princess, sword drawn, protecting my back. She is my faithful Samwise Gamgee. I have never called her “Sis,” though I do occasionally call her, “Erv.”
She is the third generation female to be named Erva, starting with Grammy, who was Erva Hartwell Boulon, then our mom, Erva Claire Denham, then her, Erva Augusta Denham. She was named Augusta after our Swiss step-granddad, August Braendlin. Pa was the only grandfather we ever had or knew.
Erva bears my mark. I accidentally sat down on her right foot and bent she little toe. To this day it sort of sits up on top of the toe next to it, not quite lying flat like it should. Of course, when it happened she howled in pain and was understandably upset.
She used to play horsy with me. She’d lie on her back, right leg crossed over left knee. I’d sit in the saddle made by her foot and ankle, her arms became my reins and she’d bounce me up and down.
Many were the nights, when we should have been sleeping, that we played 20 Questions. Sometimes we’d get the giggles so bad we couldn’t stop. Then Mom would appear out of the darkness and say something like, “Do you realize what time it is? You girls need to get to sleep. No more fooling around.”
We played a lot of board games; Parcheesi, Monopoly, Candyland, Snakes and Ladders (before it got renamed Shoots and Ladders. Why? Did snakes suddenly become too scary?)
We played a lot of card games; Gin Rummy, War, Go Fish, Old Maid, and our favorite, Canasta. I had this tendency to hold all my cards. Erva had this tendency to go out early. “Wait, wait!” I’d holler. “Let me lay down first…pulleeeeze?” Nine times out of ten she let me empty my hand as much as I could. I still lost most of the time. Gee, I wonder why?
We put a lot of jig-saw puzzles together. Many of them were done at night by kerosene lantern light. Colors aren’t true in the yellow light of a flame, one must rely more on shape. We got very good. To this day I love putting puzzles together.
We played stickball, marbles and jacks.
We went exploring together.
I don’t recall ever being bored. There was just too much to do.
This is the first picture taken of us. I am about six months old, Erva is four. She holding something in her hands, I don’t know what, it looks like a little basket. We are studying each other, eye to eye, getting acquainted and, so it looks to me, liking what we see.
This is my all time favorite picture of us. She is 12, I am eight. People thought I was around five because Erva was so tall. She was turning into the Alien Monster. She grew 6 inches in 6 months. Her bones and joints ached and she was tired all the time, she got clumsy and was anemic. This picture was taken in the early stages of her transformation. The day this picture was taken she wasn’t in a good mood, she wouldn’t smile for the camera. So there’s my left hand sneaking over to her ribs, tickling her. This is, perhaps, The Rotten Kid’s first appearance, captured on film. I love how I’m staring straight at the camera, there’s a mischievously innocent smile on my face. And Erva is frozen in time, in a spontaneous laugh.
Then…here we are a few months later. The transformation is complete. It is Erva’s 13th birthday. Note how small I am next to her even though I’m on the high side of the slope. She is the Alien Monster I don't know. I am looking down at the ground. My feet are crossed. Erva is staring somewhat gloomily at the camera. We are NOT happy campers.
Luckily for both of us, this phase in our lives didn’t last too long It left its impressions, sure, but no scars…just a few little dents which we can laugh about now.
No one dares to stand between us. Many is the time a fool has tried to take a side in an argument we two are having only to be turned on by both of us. We two, in the midst of our “discussion” will attack an interfering third party like a couple of lionesses. She and I can say what we want to each other, but no else can. No one else has earned that right. No one knows us quite in the way we know each other.
I am blessed and honored to share the same genetic material with her.
Happy Birthday, Erva. You have always been and will always be, the best sister in the world.
All my love,