Updated: Jan 11, 2021
When my youngest sister was born, my Mother named her Elder, related to the honeysuckle. My mother had always wanted to name her children after a tree or hedge because she was fascinated with the Druid's knowledge of Tree Astrology. I don't think my sister cared for her name, mostly the teasing that was inflicted upon her, but later in life, she would grow fond of the expression she frequently used, "I'm in charge, listen to your Elder!" It was amusing, being the youngest in our Mother's agroforestry. When Elder was born, I remember waiting by the double-sliding glass door in our kitchen, which faced the backyard, and a basset hound, Pebbles, who once rolled off the upper deck, 20 feet down, bounced and walked back into the house. My grandmother was mumbling about the horrible Captain Crunch cereal we were allowed to eat while she served me a poached egg, which I thought was the most disgusting thing a person could eat. Understanding my little sister was an egg yolk not too long ago, now being hatched into the world, I could not eat that egg! So I headed to my bedroom to think about changing my mind.
My grandmother was a stern woman but fascinating to me. She came from when blacks were still considered not worthy of decent employment and given limited career choices. She and my grandfather started a small newspaper business in Lambertville, New Jersey, called The Lambertville Depot. My grandmother was passionate about all human beings' rights, especially African Americans, and insisted they hire blacks and give them a newspaper section to write short stories. Later, the ruthless Ku-Klux-Klan decided on the fate of their business and burnt it to the ground. My grandparents did not have insurance, so all was lost, along with their faith. Her name was Edna, and she was tall, significant, and in control at my level. Edna eventually went to school to be trained as a social worker at a local women’s prison. And years after that, co-founded Coalition of Incarcerated Woman, an activist group for wrongly incarcerated women across America. I was fascinated by her. I decided to leave my room despite orders to think about that disgusting, gooey egg, which was still waiting for me downstairs. The options were to eat or starve until the next meal.
When my sister Elder became an adult, her passion was to become a midwife in England. She would often say, “I refuse to pay the government high taxes and receive no health benefits! Why can’t we be more like Europe?” She moved to the Muslim district in Central London, taking care of new immigrants ready to deliver but refusing to go to the London City Hospital. My sister, Elder, was ahead of her time.
My second youngest sister Vine was unpredictable and full of contradictions and believed she was the oldest sister because we were only 18 months apart. Her beauty and grace were evident at a young age. Once, she drove her Big Wheel so fast down our steep driveway, hoping to set a new record for Big Wheels in the sky! We helped her create a ramp out of old boards. She managed to land perfectly across the road while flying over skunk cabbage in a swampy patch headfirst into the mud. Often as a child, Vine looked androgynous, wearing a short hairstyle, wrangler jeans, and sneakers, the third round of hand-me-downs from our brother. Others would ask, "Is that your brother?". However, she would grow up to be the owner of a hugely successful Barbeque Ribs and Shrimp chain business with perfectly manicured nails, wearing the latest fashions. My sister Vine was popular and always looked relaxed and in control even if there was chaos around her.
My older brother Willow immediately shortened his name to Will after age five. He had a way of being in charge without any of the abrasiveness. Our brother was brilliant, firstborn, and a boy, the most favorite and most likely to succeed. We all knew he would be at the top of his class. He was always on top of collectible trends like Luke Skywalker action figures with a lightsaber and Robin, the Boy Wonder with the removable mask. He created a club called The Navigators. They devised ways to go airborne with any wheeled contraption using wing-like apparatuses and parachute parts for possible flight. Will was given a parachute from our uncle, who had survived the Vietnam war. Using a skateboard, sturdy parachute string, and parts of the parachute, Will launched Fred off a hillside, landing on top of a tall hedge. Fred survived with a few scratches and bruises, and Will knew he was onto something. The birth of a PowerKite was born. He submitted his idea to Boy’s Life magazine for the chance to win the spot to work with an inventor. One afternoon while we were all having meatloaf with ketchup and salad, the phone rang. Richard Branson founded Virgin Airlines, asking Will if he would be interested in a trip to London to meet with a young advisor team to build a prototype of his invention, recreational PowerKites. He was only 18 and about to become a multimillionaire.
When we packed up our belongings, I asked my parents what about Pebbles? Our faithful basset hound was placed in a loving home with two hampsters, one Iguana, and three young children. I'd like to believe she was the top dog in that family too! The journey to the airport was early. I remember my parents stopping at our favorite homemade donut shop at the old general store and gas station, allowing us to indulge before saying goodbye to our small New England town. With jelly powdered faces ages two-twelve, we were ready for this big adventure!
Ivy is based on a fictional character. She tells her story as a mature adult and recalls from her youth while reflecting on her life now.