I left off yesterday with three of us playing Scrabble.
Last year during a late-night game with our mother, Brandilyn asked what time it was. "Midnight," I said.
"Midnight at the oasis; send your camels to bed," Brandilyn began singing in a quavering imitation of Maria Muldaur. When we went to bed we were both going crazy because we couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics. Not content to leave well enough alone, at about one a.m. Brandilyn got up and Googled the title and printed off the lyrics. Then she came back to bed and sang them to me as loudly as she could. ("Midnight at the oasis. Send your camels to bed. Shadows painting our faces, traces of romance in our head . . .") From that silly old song we went on to "There he saw Fatima, sitting on a zebra-skin rug, with rings on her fingers and bells on her toes..." (Forgive me if you don’t follow our crazy line of thought, but that’s an old Ray Stevens song.)
During the same family reunion my cousin Linda and I discussed BE’s sick mind, which can conjure up new and interesting ways to kill off characters in her suspense novels. "I think she needs a new nickname," I said. "I am Perfect Sister. What should Brandilyn be?" The same idea struck both of us at about the same time. "Twisted Sister," we said. "If I am PS and she is TS, we need to rename Sylvia and Sheila," I thought. That night around the dinner table we came up with Big Sister for Sylvia, the oldest–BS–and Erudite Sister for Sheila–ES. Any trivia questions we have, we ask Sheila, and she always has the answer. The four of us sisters are now, in order, BS, ES, PS, and TS. [I shall refrain from making a joke about the BS--Brandilyn.]
During other family reunions Brandilyn has kept me awake by telling terrible jokes like "What do you say to a two-legged dog?" Answer: "Wanna drag?" To which I responded with an old cannibal joke. "Two cannibals were having dinner together. One said, ‘I love your mother-in-law’ and the other said, ‘Me too, pass the noodles.’" We got quiet and tried to sleep, but every few minutes one of us would start giggling again about the two-legged dog. It took us a long time to fall sleep that night.
This year she came into the bedroom at 2 a.m. on the first night of the reunion. I was trying to sleep and had warned her in advance about singing dumb songs all night long. After spending about 18 hours trying to get to Kentucky, she was punchy and didn’t care what I thought. "Midnight at the oasis," she started. "Shut up," I said. "Go to bed."
Two years in a row I’ve had freak accidents before the family reunion. Last year I got my fingers slammed in a car door. This year I stuck my eye into a lilac bush while weeding around it, and ended up in the emergency room with a serious corneal abrasion. Brandilyn told me with a record like that she was going to have to rethink my nickname of Perfect Sister. I guess I can’t really argue with that. [How 'bout CS–Clumsy Sister.]
Since Brandilyn is now a much-published author, our family members have become not only her staunchest supporters but also her harshest critics. We’re quick to point out things like, "That word showed up five times in your last book." Her new series which launches in August with Violet Dawn is dedicated, each one in turn, to the three sisters. When she finished book two she made the mistake of asking for help in naming book three. Since this is to be "my" book, I hauled out my synonym finder and went to work on titles. I can’t understand why she didn’t like Ecru Eve. Who cares if it doesn’t fit in with her desired syllabic count? It’s MY book! But after she rejected that suggestion, I came up with a much better one. Perfect-–one word a color, the other a time of day. Cerulean Crepuscule. Yes? No. Rejected again. I just can’t imagine why.
I could tell numerous other stories about Brandilyn, but I might give you the wrong idea regarding how I feel about her. Nearly five years ago my husband, Rick, died suddenly. Brandilyn was the first member of the family I called. She immediately said, "Sandy, I’m coming to you," and twelve hours later she was on a plane to Michigan. What can I say about a sister like that?
I think I know. She may be Bad Egg, or Twisted Sister, but to me she’s the Perfect Sister.