By CL Bledsoe
When I was growing up, my sister was magic. She was a force like the wind, blowing through the quiet world.
I was the opposite of magic. I was beige and boring, sitting on the couch, watching TV. To me, the made-up, repetitive worlds depicted in cheesy shows were way more interesting and safe than my own world. Nothing hurt on TV. Every problem could be resolved in under a half-hour. The lives we watched were clean and happy.
(This was before reality TV. Back in the 80s, TV shows depicted lives people might actually want to live, as opposed to the schadenfreude that a lot of TV is now.)
But my sister wasn’t interested in TV. She wanted to explore the world.
And there was a lot of world to explore. We lived on top of a ridge, with a stand of trees to the west, pasture land to the north and east, and a steep drop off to the south that led to a small lake. Around that, there were gravel hills, marshy run-off, more trees, and who knew what else?
It was idyllic, which was something I had a hard time seeing. Our home life was not easy. For me, not being noticed was the best I could really hope for. The idea of support, nurturing, the usual things one would expect as a child weren’t really available. To me, comfort came from being ignored, because it meant nothing bad was happening.
In other words, I just wanted to escape, but I didn’t have the creativity my sister did. For her, escape came from her terrifically fueled imagination. She was always coming up with adventures.
Once, my sister became convinced there was a goldmine under the cow pasture we lived beside. There was an old billboard over the levee that blocked off the west side of the lake we used as a stock pond. The text was long since faded. For some reason, she decided that she could make out the words “warning” and something about a cave-in. That must mean there was a gold mine nearby. She convinced our cousin and me to help her dig for it, in a gravel hill near the lake. We didn’t have shovels, so we used spoons until our mom noticed they were gone.
At another point, she decided we should dig a pool in our front yard, also using spoons. (It was probably a good move that we weren’t given access to shovels, now that I’m thinking about it.) There’s still a hole in the yard from the progress we made.
She would plant flowers (which the cows would eat). She was forever trying to catch a cow so she could pet it.
I honestly didn’t understand these things. She was so excited by the world. Whenever I got excited about something, if I made the mistake of letting a family member (other than her) know, I was quickly knocked back. Boys aren’t supposed to be excited by things. Excitement is childish and shows weakness. To survive in this world, you have to be miserable, I guess was the lesson. I struggle with it to this day.
But my sister loved living, with an innate fierceness that intimidated me. Stepping outside, I saw the possibility of snakes, bulls charging us, generally a lot of effort for a gain I didn’t really understand.
To her, there were ghosts in the pasture. Legends of ancient magic. The Cow Graveyard (where our father had dragged the corpses of a couple cattle that had died, over the years) was a mythical place, full of mystery. The odd bleached bone was deeply meaningful in some way we just had to figure out.
Her imagination fueled me; I couldn’t avoid it. It shaped who I am as a writer and person. I’ve sought out creative people like her my whole life. If I can’t see the magic, maybe they can help.