Monday, March 7, 2011

Every Good Southern Girl Needs a Sister

In spite of nearly mutant growth, Wilmington is a small town when it comes to traveling news.  Wilmington was an even smaller town—demographically and gossip-wise—when I was growing up. 

You may recall a previous post where I told you about the babysitting community and how word traveled fast when it came to taking jobs from “cheap parents” and “problem children.”  Imagine my chagrin when my mother let slip that my brother and I were actually in the “problem children” category during our youth. 

Being the Belle that I am, I was quite surprised and retroactively embarrassed.  I know that time softens the edges of our memories to make them more tolerable, but I’ve spent the period subsequent to receiving that little nugget of information trying to figure out just what Ethan and I did to earn our rep. 

I do recall one night where my parents went out and Ethan was only a few months old.  I don’t know if he was colicky or what, but he cried the whole time Mom and Dad were gone.  After a while, I started crying too.  I imagine that babysitter needed a stiff drink when she got home.  Other than unusual incidents like that, I didn’t think we were all that bad.  It wasn’t like a sitter had to chase after us—we were total couch potatoes.  We didn’t particularly love bedtime, but we were proficient at hauling ass upstairs and diving into beds in order to appear asleep—it was a tried and true method of keeping everybody out of trouble. 

Nevertheless, it was evidently a little challenging to find a warm body willing to watch “Those Culbreth Children.”

I’m not sure how it came to pass, but Mom and Dad prevailed upon the daughter of our former preschool teacher to come over and watch us for an evening.  The name of the sacrificial lamb was Kaki. 

I think Kaki was in junior high school at the time and I was in third or fourth grade.  By my shady mathematical ability, I believe that would have made Ethan three or four.  That very first night, she had us in breathless hysterics by showing us how to make “steam cream” by melting ice cream in the microwave.  It tasted like poop, but that wasn’t the point—it was hilarious. 

Yep, steam cream was the first of many Kaki Kitchen Experiments throughout the years.  The grape Kool-aid milkshake was a low point, but we had fun trying.  There were also fantastic stair slide races and countless other adventures that we probably never should have survived.   We fell in love with her and she ended up babysitting us almost every single weekend.  She went with us on vacation to Bald Head Island and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had. 

Kaki was our sister.  Unfortunately for her, we treated her like a sister.  We picked on her about whatever boy she liked at the time.  Kaki and I weathered Duran Duran, Don Johnson and other embarrassing school girl crushes together.  Gads—I think I’ll stop right there with that particular reminiscence. 

We also pranked her mercilessly, but that ended up backfiring on me in a big way when I accidentally sliced my fingertip off. 

My parents were out of town and Kaki ran to take a shower.  I was banging on the door get getting blood all over the hallway so that it looked like a scene out of Friday the 13th.  The problem was that Ethan and I were pretty good at thinking up ways to get her to come out and Kaki—rightfully thinking that it was same old, same old—doggedly continued her shower.  The poor thing almost had a heart attack when she opened the door and saw the carnage.  I can look back and laugh about it now as I recall us sitting in the kitchen of a neighbor who fortuitously happened to be a plastic surgeon.  He playfully bantered about the good job I’d done while she and I were trying to not pass out cold on the floor.

Of course, Kaki wasn’t above the occasional trickery herself and—seeing as she is an honorary Culbreth—she has a wicked sense of humor.  She playfully referred to my parents as her step-parents and they called her their step-daughter.  Once, she called Dad’s law firm and identified herself to the receptionist as his step-daughter.  That little introduction completely stopped work at the law firm and sent tongues wagging like crazy.  It was hilarious.

Kaki graduated high school and went to college and she was sorely missed.  Ethan and I were at the point that we didn’t really need babysitters anymore, but we just enjoyed being around Kaki.  She made surprise visits at birthdays and other times and her appearance was always the greatest present of all. 

Kaki went on to be a teacher and her students will never know how blessed they are.

Kaki is my only sister, so she was a bridesmaid in my wedding.  I am Kaki’s only sister, so I was a bridesmaid in Kaki’s wedding.  She’s gone on to be the mother of two beautiful little girls and those little red-headed monkeys will eventually know how lucky they are because Aunt Ashley intends to tell them some day—minus all of the incriminating stories, of course. 

See?  You can choose family and thank God for that. 

PS:  Kaki is also an awesome Southern Belle.  One of her most favorite foods is grits.  She was one of the first girls I know to sport the label G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised in the South).

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