My sister Ginnie Lou, had she lived, would have turned 71 today. So this column is my way of saying “Happy Birthday” to her.
When we were little our mother always told us that she wanted to have two girls. She wanted the first one to have brown curly hair and brown eyes, and the second one to have blond straight hair and brown eyes. What always amazed us was that somehow she got exactly what she wanted, and of course we always felt very special and very loved. I became Tibby and my younger sister became Toode.
From an early age, Ginnie Lou loved animals. She loved the little ones like fish and baby chickens so much that the fish died from being overfed by her little hand and the little chickens our folks got us for Easter one year succumbed to being handled too much, in spite of the warnings mother gave her.
Later caterpillars became her choice of “pets.” She devised little carts out of paper and God only knows how she fashioned that little harness for the caterpillars, but she’d have that caterpillar pulling the cart around on the driveway, encouraging it along by stroking its hairy back with a feather.
I know for a while she had thought about making a flea circus, which we had seen once down on the Pike. Luckily that idea never materialized.
By the time she was 8 or 9, she had laid claim to my mother’s dog “Pal” and a banty rooster she got somewhere and named Earl. First she trained Pal, who was a darling little female mutt rescued from the pound, to carry a flag in her mouth. Then she trained Earl to ride on Pal’s back by clutching the dog’s harness. In 1950 the entourage won first place in the Long Beach Humane Society’s Animal Fair at Bixby Park in Long Beach. As a prize, their picture appeared in the newspaper.
But animals weren’t her only love. She loved rocks. Our dad had done some mining in his earlier days and he had a collection of various rocks and minerals that he’d picked up along the way. He kept them in a cigar box. Every so often Ginnie Lou and I would ask to see the box and we’d go through it, memorizing each item according to what Daddy had told us it was. I recall there was some fools gold and some geodes but that is all I can remember. But even in later life Ginnie Lou could recall and name every last one of those rocks.
She loved to write, beginning with little family newspapers that she would put together on occasion, and later with poetry and prose that was always acclaimed by her English teachers and that sometimes won awards. Although she didn’t have the drive to write like some of us do, she was always more than willing to edit what I wrote, and she taught me a lot that I had missed somewhere along the way.
She and I didn’t always think alike, and sometimes it caused problems that took a while to dissolve. But in the end, as we started experiencing the deaths of our parents and our aunts and uncles - that generation before us that so enriched our lives - we often commented that “We” were really all we had left to share in those things of our past. We made a real effort to minimize any difficulties and to focus on all that we had in common. She died in February of 2004. I miss her a lot. Happy Birthday, Toode.