If I close my eyes and listen, I can hear the sound of roller skates keeping in time with the organ music playing. I see the ropes lining the sides of the rink separating the rink area from where skaters were donning their roller skates and beginners were trying to stand or shuffle without falling. I am two years old, and I can feel the air on my face as we circle the rink over and over. I am not skating, but I am perched on the shoulders of my sister Mary as she skates to the rhythm of the music.
The rink is leased by our brother Henry. We live upstairs above it and Dad and Mom and Mary help Henry run it. I was told that Henry went out and bought a suit that had two pair of pants, a jacket and a vest. He wore the pants and jacket and Mary wore the other pair of pants and vest. That was their uniforms.
It was at this rink that my sister Lola had her first surprise party. Don't be mistaken. It wasn't a surprise party for Lola. She was the one who told her teacher that the whole school class was invited to the skating rink for her birthday party. It was Mom that was surprised because she didn't know what was going on when a class of seven year olds showed up. Henry and Mary took the matter in hand as they found skates to fit them all. Henry said if Lola said she was having a party, then she was having a party.
Looking back upon my first memory it is strange that even now, sixty-three years later I can still feel the love and security I felt riding upon the shoulders of Mary. But you see, I always had a special bond with Mary.
Before my birth, our mother became very ill and it was Mary that quit school for a year to take care of our Mom and me. Mary was beautiful, she was popular and she was smart. It was a sacrifice for her to give up graduating with her schoolmates her own age in order to take care of a newborn sister. Well actually and technically, I was her half-sister because we shared our mom but we had two different fathers. It is said sacrifice can create two things; either resentment or love. I was blessed to have Mary choose love. When I was born, people would ask her how her little half-sister was doing and Mary would (in no uncertain terms) let them know that I wasn't a half sister. I had two arms and two legs just like every other baby. She resented people calling me her half sister. She never did until one day some thirty years later.
I was pregnant with my seventh child and it wasn't an easy pregnancy. During my last month, I had retained so much water that I wouldn't fit into any of my clothes nor my shoes. A knock came at my door and I waddled (most ungraciously) to answer it. It was Mary. She took one look at me and said "I'm sure happy you're just my half sister. I would sure hate to see what you looked like if you were whole."