Lost: One Bra; Found: One Sister

>> Monday, 19 March 2007

After a year Down Under, my husband, Don, and I, and our toddler son, had just arrived in New York City on our way back to the Midwest and home. My sister Betty, who lived in Princeton, New Jersey, had promised to meet us.

"There she is!" I shouted. Even though I was loaded down with suitcases, diaper bags and a wiggly one-year-old, we managed to rush almost as fast toward her as she did toward us.

"You made it!" she squealed as we awkwardly group-hugged, made even more awkward by my six-months-pregnant tummy. "And what a beautiful baby!"

We could hardly stop hugging and kissing. "It's been so long!" I sniffled. "I've missed you so much!" Looking around for my nieces, I asked, "Where're the girls?"

"Home with their daddy. Here, let's get through Customs and head back to Jersey so you can see them for yourself."

We all talked a mile a minute all the way to Princeton. Betty, her professor husband and young daughters had only been back in the States two weeks themselves after several months in Europe. She had to hear all about Australia, and we had to hear all about her travels.

"We're still living out of suitcases," she explained. "In fact, as soon as we get home, I've got to run over to the laundry building to do a load of laundry. Then I'll pop something on the stove for dinner."

After reintroducing us to her little girls (who scarcely remembered their long-lost relatives), Betty headed for the staff laundry room with her bags of dirty clothes. While she was gone, Don and I had a great reunion with our brother-in-law and adorable nieces. Soon, my sister returned. A gourmet cook, in no time she produced a feast practically out of thin air for her starving guests. After dishes, my own little one was ready for a bottle and bed.

Betty glanced at the clock. "The clothes should be ready to put in the dryer now. Want to come along?"

We hugged and talked all the way to the laundry building. I thought back through the years, before marriage and children. Growing up, we two argued and bickered and competed and never seemed to have a thing in common except parents, siblings and a bedroom. In fact, we were so different that Betty used to tease me that we weren't really even related. Not until our college years did we finally learn to appreciate each other.

Then came the years of marriage and motherhood and living half a continent away from each other. Now, here we were together again at last, relishing every precious moment of it. Yet somehow, something was missing. We were still distant, on our best behavior, "company." Not buddies. Not sisters.

At the laundry room, Betty checked the machines. "Good, they're done. Want to help me put them in the dryers? Then we can grab a soda from the machine over there and sit back and wait for them to finish. The guys can babysit." Sympathetically, she remarked, "I'm sure you're exhausted, with one baby and another on the way."

We relaxed and talked about her little girls, my little boy and my upcoming baby. Suddenly, she asked, "What's that smell?"

We both jumped up and rushed to one of the dryers. As we opened the door, smoke billowed out. "Oh, no!" Betty wailed. "That was my underwear! It's ruined. Every bit of it!"

Near tears, she held up the scorched remains of a bra, melted to less than half its former size. Then she giggled. "Hey, I'll just go without a bra then, so there!"

Giggling also, I grabbed it and put it on her head. "Or use it for a headband." Next I held it up against my roly-poly tummy. "Or maybe I could wear it for a belt." At that, we held each other, horse-laughing until we literally cried.

And there in that smoke-filled, drab little laundry room, with a basket of ruined laundry, we found our long-lost sisterhood. That was over forty years ago. We're still best friends.

Best friends and sisters.
By Bonnie Compton Hanson

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