|Officially launched today!|
One of the joys of writing about my life's adventures is revisiting my early years. I've told many stories about my parents, my grandparents, my in-laws, and my siblings. A lot of my childhood stories feature my sister, Patti. She's included in "Upside, Downside," one of the great stories in this new book.
This would be a good Hanukah or Christmas gift for your own sister! Trisha Faye once again has put together a classy collection of true stories.
Here's more: In Celebration of Sisters rejoices in the dynamics of sisters of all phases: sisters that have had a falling out and been reunited, sisters from another mother, sisters we have lost too soon, and even loving thoughts from brothers about their sisters. Overall, whether the sisters don’t see eye to eye, whether they were born from another mother, or whether they’re the best of friends, the message is as Isadora James claims: ‘sisters are a golden thread to the meaning of life.’ Come take a peek as over forty authors share their stories of sisterhood in essays, reflections, and poetry. On some you’ll laugh. On some you’ll cry. But on all, your heart will feel the warmth and love as you read the tales of sisters.
Here's the photo of my sister and me that appears in the book, taken around 1942.
|Patti in 1952, with Dan Beattie|
RIP, Patti French Pappas, 7/2/1936 - 2/28/2014
|Spring, Terri and Star 2017|
By Terri Elders
“Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.” ~Charles M. Schulz
The doorbell clanged twice. “Aren’t you going to answer that?” Mama asked, observing me from the kitchen as I scuttled down the hall towards the back bedroom I shared with Sissy.
“It’s Cathy and Sheila from school. I’m scared.”
The doorbell shrilled again, followed by a series of thunderous rat-a-tat-tats.
Mama shook her head and sighed. “We’re not going to find out what they want, will we, if we don’t open the door.”
She sneaked a quick peak at the cake baking in the oven, whipped off her apron, and fluffed up her hair. “Sit down on the sofa and don’t say a word,” she warned, striding towards the door.
“Be careful,” I called after her, “Everybody calls them Spit Cat and She Wolf. They’re bad news.”
“Good afternoon, ladies,” Mama trilled, welcoming the menacing duo on the doorstep as if they were expected teatime guests. “What can I do for you today?”
Cathy stepped forward, hands clenched at her sides. With her eyes squeezed to slits, I half expected her to hiss and sputter and raise a claw. Instead she barked, “We’ve got a beef with your daughter.”
“Terri? What on earth did she do?” Mama cast a puzzled glance in my direction. In l949 I hardly posed a threat to anybody. Because I’d skipped a grade, my sister and I had just started junior high together. But unlike fully developed Sissy, I still sucked my thumb behind my textbooks, unless I was too busy gnawing my pencils to shreds.
“Not Termite,” Sheila growled, glaring in my direction. “Sissy. She’s trying to steal my boyfriend.”
I squirmed on the velveteen sofa cushion. If the two bumped off Sissy when she came home, a jury might well bring in a verdict of justifiable homicide. Sissy had been turning heads since she was six. By the time she hit adolescence, grown men stopped dead on the street to stare at her. She just batted her turquoise eyes, tossed her thick head of hazelnut curls, and smiled back at them like a queen awarding a favor to devoted courtiers.
On the other hand, in a down and dirty tiff, Sissy might emerge victorious. From our sisterly tussles, I knew the strength in those deceptively slender fingers, well exercised by years of spanning octaves and trilling arpeggios at her little upright piano. “Just remember, I’ll always be bigger, stronger and prettier,” she’d crow, pinning me to the floor.
“Sissy should be home soon,” Mama said, stepping back and waving the pair in, “You might as well wait inside.”
The pair trudged in, without as much as a token swipe of their feet on the welcome mat. Cathy swiveled her head around to take in our post-WWII décor: knickknack shelves stuffed with ceramic elves, embroidered antimacassars, a braided rag rug, and Sissy’s dainty spinet tucked into the corner. Daddy used to say that we barely had room to swing a cat in the miniscule living room. I suddenly pictured Sissy swinging Cathy into one of the whatnots, elves hurtling to the floor. I’d likely be the one scooping up shards and comforting Mama.
Sheila sniffed suspiciously. “What’s that I smell?”
I, too, had noticed the rich brown sugary aroma drifting in from the kitchen. I’d nearly forgotten about the cake. Daddy raved about this exceptionally moist, buttery, gooey dessert, and even I, who generally lacked a sweet tooth, appreciated its citrusy tang and caramel crunch.
“Why, ladies, it’s pineapple upside-down cake. I was just about to offer you a piece,” Mama said, waltzing back towards the kitchen. I knew she had baked that cake for Daddy’s Friday supper surprise. But now she returned, clutching a pair of her best Woolworth’s pink glass plates, each laden with warm slabs of the treat. Our guests eyed the steamy squares with their pineapple circles and maraschino cherries, and licked their lips. Mama and I watched silently as they shoveled spoonfuls into their maws.
As they forked up the last few bites, Sissy breezed into the house. I stiffened, wondering if I should snatch Mama’s beloved plates away from the so-called ladies before Spit Cat and She Wolf hurled them at my sister.
Sissy cast an eyeball at the living room tableaux, and didn’t wince. “What’s cooking?”
Sheila jumped to her feet, clutching her pink plate in both hands. Mama stepped forward and took it from her. Cathy rose more slowly, stabbing her last cherry and moving it to her mouth. Mama snatched that plate, as well. I exhaled.
“You’ve been making eyes at Roger and I want it to stop!” Sheila snarled. I well understood how she’d earned the moniker, She Wolf. Her eyes even glittered like a rabid canine’s as she tried to stare down my sister.
“Roger? Oh, h-e-double-toothpicks,” Sissy said, shaking her head, curls afloat. “Roger’s OK in my book, but I’m interested in someone else.”
“You were hanging with him this morning by the cafeteria,” Sheila continued, not giving in.
“Sure. He was asking me I could go to a party tomorrow night.”
“See?” Sheila howled, turning to Cathy, who in turn glowered at Sissy and raised a balled fist.
“Hey, wait, not as his date, just to play the piano at the Town Club party. It was supposed to be a surprise for you.”
Sissy scurried to her piano. “This is the song he wanted,” she said, hitting the opening notes to that latest Andrews Sisters hit, I Can Dream, Can’t I? “He said it was the song that the two of you first danced to this summer, when he realized how crazy he was about you.”
Mama’s guests exchanged sheepish glances as Sissy sang the haunting lyrics. When she finished, the room remained silent for a few seconds, then Sissy jumped up, helped herself to a piece of pineapple upside-down cake, and offered more to the visitors.
Cathy and Sheila thanked Mama profusely for her hospitality, and left. Sissy hurried to the phone. “I’m lucky there’s nobody on the party line,” she said, as she dialed.
“Roger? Your girlfriend was here. Yeah, Sheila. She saw us together this morning. I said you wanted me to come to the party tomorrow night to play her favorite song at the party. Yes. I think I convinced her. She and Cathy left, all smiles.”
When she tucked the receiver back in its cradle, Mama demanded an explanation.
“I can’t help it if guys always try to hit on me,” Sissy wailed. “It’s not as if I invite all that attention.” Then she blinked her mascara-laden lids at us, and huffed off to our shared bedroom.
Dang nabbit, I thought as I washed the dinner dishes that night. Only one little square of pineapple upside-down cake had remained in the pan, and of course it had to be for Daddy. My gorgeous sneaky sister had bamboozled me out of the only dessert I loved.
As always, I forgave her. Whatever trickery Sissy got up to, it somehow always seemed worth it if I could hear her sing.
Mama’s Searchlight Cookbook Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
2/3 cup sugar 1 large egg
½ cup shortening 1 ½ cups flour
¼ tsp. salt ½ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring 2 tsps. baking powder
1 20 oz. can pineapple slices 2 tbsps. melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
Cream shortening and sugar. Add unbeaten egg. Add flavoring. Beat thoroughly. Sift flour, measure, and sift with salt and baking-powder. Add alternately with milk to creamed shortening and sugar. Cover the bottom of a shallow cake pan with wax paper. 3 Bake in 375 degree oven 40 to 45 minutes.