One to grow up with

By

Bundled up for the snow-covered day, I stood on my front porch watching the movers carry furniture into the house across the street. I shook my head in commiseration. Though only eight years old, I had already learned a great deal about the tedium and toil of moving things.

My little sister, Alice, who was three years old, had made up a game in which she got to sit in her rocking chair and give me orders to move things all about her large, three-story dollhouse. The game was called "Ding-Dong, the House Is All Wrong." Alice never ran out of things for me to move, for her house was full of furniture, carpets, pictures, and bric-a-brac. In the kitchen there were even drawers for knives, forks, spoons, dishes, pots, and pans. Rocking away and tossing her curls with the fun, she would sing me ditties as I toiled. Like , "Ding Dong/Forks and spoons/Davie movies/The forks and spoons."

A little sister -- could there be a greater trial to one's patience, one's ears?

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I crossed the street, hoping to find a playmate in the new family. A little girl with big blue eyes peered down at me from an upstairs window.

"Do you have a brother?" I called.

She shook her head wistfully.

I sighed and went back to my front lawn.

Up and down the block I could see several snowmen, all of them, I thought, rather dumpy affairs. That was it! I'd build a snowman today. A real giant.

It took me most of the morning, but when I'd finished I had a snowman over five feet tall, firm and round, with red-apple buttons, a smile of marbles, a pine-cone nose, and blue-jawbreaker eyes.

Suddenly I noticed I had an audience, too. There, at a respectful distance, stood my new neighbor.

"I love your snowman," she said.

"Thanks."

"I love his red buttons best of all."

"They'll look even better after I polish them."

"We were silent for several moments, admiring the buttons.

Then the little girl said, "My name's Judy."

"Mine's Davie."

"I'm sorry I don't have a brother for you to play with, Davie. I'm an only child."

"That's all right. I . . . I have lots of fun."

"Are you an only child, too?"

"No, I've got a little sister. Her name's Alice."

"You're lucky."

Lucky?" I looked at her with surprise and incomprehension.

"You're lucky because you've got somebody to love you back," Judy explained. "I love my dolls, but they're not like babies. You can feed babies yummy things."

"I tried to feed Alice some baby food once. Spinach. You know what she did? She pushed a whole gob right in my face. Then she laughed."

"All babies hate old spinach."

"Another time she drooled all over my homework and made the ink run."

"I wouldn't care if my little sister drooled all over me."

This spirited discussion of only-ness versus sister-ness lasted till noon. Then, with a "Bye, you lucky Davie, you!" Judy went home. I complained to the snowman, "Me she calls lucky. Can't she see that she's the lucky one?"

You would think that your own snowman would side with you in a matter like this, especially if you spent practically the whole afternoon polishing his buttons. But no! That very might he appeared to me in a dream and said, "Yes, Davie, you are lucky because for all the ordeal a little sister is, she's ten times more a joy. I would not tell you this if it weren't true, for a snowman's heart is made in heaven, and he never, never lies." Then, with a wink of infinite wisdom, he vanished.

When I awoke the next morning I didn't know what to think. First Judy had said I was lucky, and now the snowman had said it, too. Were they ganging up on me? Or were they telling me the truth? Judy had honest eyes, and the snowman's heart was made in heaven. Could the little slave-driver with the dollhouse really be more joy than ordeal?

Dressing, I went and looked in her room. There she was, rocking in her chair and singing, "Ding Dong/ Move the piano/ Davie moves/ The piano there." She was playing her game by herself, imagining that I was there helping her. I smiled and shook my head.

Sensing my presence, she turned and looked up at me, the real Davie come to take over for the imagined one, and her whole face lit up. She ran to me and asked for a kiss.

After I kissed her and promised to move the piano soon, I bundled her up and took her out on the front porch. Pointing at the snowman, I said, "For you. I made him for you."

With a whoop she frolicked toward his smile.

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