I ADORED MY little sister growing so fast. To see her beaming face at the window highlighted my day after school. She always reached up to carry my books, no matter how heavy. After we shared a snack, then time for homework. Anna took naps or played alone, while I finished my studies. Then we’d go out for a walk.
She loved the outdoors. Our outings became adventures—it made me feel good to see her hopping and skipping alongside me. If something piqued her curiosity, we stopped, whether it was to find a fallen bird’s nest or to watch a worm squirm under a rock to hide. We’d listen to the mockingbirds while we gathered sprigs of white wildflowers, and the red hibiscus and puffy yellow marigolds in bloom, smelling their fragrance before taking some home for Mama.
Anna cheerfully greeted everyone we passed. “What a beautiful angel she is,” they’d say. Her enchanting smile and deep blue, watchful eyes mesmerized me. The warmth of her merry laughter penetrated hearts, including mine. “She’s my sister,” I’d proudly boast. Anna’s countenance radiated joy. I cherished her carefree spirit and relished her innocence.
Since Mama stayed in bed until the afternoons, Anna and I usually ate a bowl of cornflakes for breakfast. We’d watch Sesame Street on the black-and-white tube. Whenever Big Bird appeared, my sister squealed and clapped. Then when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood came on, we sang along with him.
We ate our meals sitting on cushions on the floor. We didn’t have a scheduled time to eat. Chow time consisted of simple bologna sandwiches, a heated can of SpaghettiOs, or sometimes a can of tomato soup. On special occasions, we ate Swanson chicken TV dinners.
Mama expected me to care for my sister. In the evenings, when she and Jimmy went out, Anna and I stayed home by ourselves. We’d lay on the floor to color or play inside our blanket tent, having tea parties with our plastic cups. I sometimes read aloud, making up the words I didn’t know. We stayed up until we grew sleepy.
Whatever we did, doing it together was more fun than being alone.
One particular evening, as I gazed into my sister’s baby-blues, a sudden feeling of sorrow swept over me. Tears clouded my eyes. Something burned within my chest. I cried out, “Please God, don’t let nothing bad happen to her!”
Anna gazed at me with her gentle, trusting eyes.
“I’ll protect you,” I whispered to her. “For always.”
Before bedtime, we repeated a child’s prayer Grandma taught me, one that hung on the wall:
“. . . I pray thee, Lord, my soul to keep . . .”
That night I clung to my sister and kept the strange premonition to myself.
Excerpt of Chapter 4: The Little Green Dress in Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace
In memory of my angel, my sister born Sept. 23, 1966.
Taken too soon from us on Oct. 22, 1968.
I’ll love you forever, for true and for always.
“I shall go to her, but she shall not return to me.”
2 Sam. 12:23