"Hey! That's my baby spoon!" I didn't give you permission to use it!" I demanded.
"Oh, I'm not hurting it. Besides, aren't you a little old to be worrying about your baby spoon?"
"Well, don't you think you're a little old to be using it?" And with that futile attempt as a last word, I stomped off to the solace of my room to mope about one more of the ten-thousand-plus confrontations my sister and I had exchanged for most of our speaking lives.
Try as she might, poor Mom never could keep us from locking horns over just about any detail of the tiniest proportions. I always dubiously regarded her comments about God blessing me with a little sister like Janie, so I would have someone to play with. Surely it must have been a cruel joke to have to unwillingly share my room, my clothes, my privileges, even my boyfriends with this "playmate." Nothing was too small to argue about.
But this was really a tiny thing. A miniature silver baby spoon given to me at birth. Janie's was with in reach and pretty, too, with a daisy on the handle, that represented a secret symbol we only knew as special to Mom. But, mine spoke of a legacy, a heritage because of its resemblance to a traditional southern pattern, Old Master's that the "well-established" Southern lady inherited at the time of her "well-established" marriage. The tiny handle's exquisite curves of filagree and flowers grew even richer and more precious as I grew.
It's not uncommon for sisters to engage in the age old custom of power play, but Janie seemed to be born for the part. She was constantly pursuing any nerve that would send me into a selfish rage, whittling me into "The Whiny One" and she as "The Innocent Angel." And only hours later to silently assault me with that incessant, victorious gleam in her eye and devilish grin.
Reflectively, I'd have to admit her faults were not all necessarily created by her own hand. She must have inherited the gene of a recreational food trimmer from our darling dad. The biggest problem with her desire to snack,. was that she hated to get caught because she would then be the brunt of her sibling's "fat blimp" jokes - a detestable event to be sure. To justify her snacking, she wouldn't dish out a full serving of ice cream or pudding or custard. She would only take "just a bite," or trim the pie "just a little." To add insult to injury, she would use the smallest spoon available and quickly drop the spoon into the sink to avoid being caught in the act. This continued throughout our teenage years - much to the dismay of me finding my precious spoon soiled and thoughtlessly cast aside.
Mom would try to calm my silly melodramatic rages by saying, "Now, don't sweat the little things, Suzy. Sisters are more precious than any spoon."
"Yeah, right, Mom," I would mumble, trying to avoid any more of her "Love Thy Sister" speech. Deep down I knew she was right. All her guidance and support had not all gone down the drain. Janie and I had both developed a strong sense of love for God and demonstrated that love daily with those around us. We had been hospital volunteers and Vacation Bible School teachers and never hesitated to help anyone in need. We even helped each other with shared chores or homework on rare occasions...until...
One sad and predictable evening when Janie and I were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. The sink was piled with the evening's cast-offs of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green salad. Bones, celery stalks, potato and carrot peelings littered and covered the the sink; dishes scattered from one end of the counter to the other.
Of course, we were practicing our usual sisterly encounter of cooperative activity. The events of a not so successful school day seemed to pile in on the rest of the sink's slop. Once again she had gotten the upper hand. This time by clinching a date with a boy I had had my eyes on for weeks. We were exchanging barbs left and right as the dishes were being piled on the left after the garbage ad been scraped into the right side to eventually be demolished by the disposal. Finally, the dishes were in the dishwasher, and Janie flipped the switch to the disposal. The sickening gut-wrenching sound of metal chewing metal invaded our ears. . Simultaneously we reached for the switch to silence the assault. Giving Janie one of my famous "killer" scowls, I gingerly placed my hand into the bowels of the sink, slipping past crushed carrots, limp lettuce, and mashed mush to touch the interloper of the disposal. My fingers wrapped around the intruder, and I let the sink relinquish its slimy hold on me. I first noted the recognition, not with my eyes, but at that spot inside that grabs your stomach at the worst possible place and sends a stinging shock throughout your intestines. The shattered vision of my feeding my darling future child with my very own heirloom had just been reduced to a jagged mass of silver-black.
"You really did it this time!" I shrieked and stormed out of the kitchen, not even looking back to see if triumph or remorse had registered on her face. Her careless and selfish ways had finally rendered me incapable of forgiveness. It was another notch carved into the wormwood of my heart. It would be a long time before I knew I would tolerate Janie for more than absolutely necessary.
A couple of years later on my twentieth birthday, the simple family celebration became a turning point in our relationship. It would be the building block that would eventually help us cling to each other during our parents' deaths and our trials and tribulations of marriage and motherhood. The family had gathered for what would beone of the few last times all five of us would be together. After opening the usual materialistic gifts for a college girl, I came to the last present. Inside a simple little box, cushioned by a haphazardly folded tissue, lay a tiny silver angel, with her tiny chin pointing up and blowing a tiny trumpet...a declaration of joy and love. In her art class, Janie had molded this precious creation from the silver of that long forgotten spoon.
Somehow it wasn't so tiny anymore.