Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Pamula (repost) #sheis60today!

note: in the years since i wrote this post, my sister has become a grandmother, and the hoy of watching her in this new role is unparalleled. her new baby girl Gracie carries the gene that reaches from my grandmother to my sister, on to her daughter and now grand. (we have seen pictures of our great-grandmother, and have mercy all five generations look just alike! Wishing her a happy 60th birthday, which once again falls on The Gathering weekend. miss you Sis. and i feel so much closer to you on our journey in the past few years.

Pamela Jean Byrum was born on a February morning so foggy that my grandfather drove past the hospital entrance and had to turn around. My father was in the Navy, and my mother, great with child, was living with my grandparents in a tiny village in northeastern N.C. about 20 miles south of Suffolk, Va., when the big day came. Daddy came home shortly after, and from that day on, she stole his heart ... ( ok, so I was a twinkle in God's eye when she arrived and my brother already a reality, but I think all will agree that she is the fave. She dressed as my father for Halloween one year. I mean, who does that and does not win favor from somebody?)

While I was not there to witness her arrival, I imagine my sister made her entrance quietly, unlike my own, as a whirling dervish a little over two years later. And that pretty much sums us up as sisters. She is the quiet one, and I am the one who tries to get all the attention. Do I need to even say that she's not on FB?

Today is her birthday, and since she won't speak for herself, let me say just a few things about PamUla. (she will not be happy with me, but I promise, it won't be the first time.)
One thing to get out of the way: On her wedding day, the priest mispronounced her name, calling her Pam-U-la, and the name has become our affectionate moniker for her ever since.

I don't have any first memory of my sister, just soft images of the first room we shared. I think there was a lamb on the wall, and a doll bed, but I am not sure. Pictures of us show that we wore matching nightgowns, and in our crinolines, she looks a bit thinner, which would hold true through the years. Old home movies reveal when we walked down the sidewalk, she tried to hold my hand. 

Everybody called her the 'Pretty One' and me the Baby, and our identities have held true to that, too.  She is the steadfast to my mercurial, telling me much too often than I would like to admit that I need to buck up and get going. She has lived in Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Missouri and Iowa, has set her stakes down in every place, and quickly. The first move took her on her wedding day in our childhood hometown to the Texas Gulf Coast, a hurricane swirling close by within a few weeks of her settling. Back then, she called me every day (when Long Distance cost a LOT of money), telling me how she had to take up the carpet, get the wet vac, take care of business, and move on.

She is like our grandmother in favor and demeanor, so much in fact that a photograph of my grandmother when she was a teen looks exactly like my sister. I have always marveled that someone could be so much like another, but two generations apart. 

My sister can fix a toilet, dance a mean shag, decorate a house, plan a beautiful party — be it wedding, 50th anniversary or birthday — raise remarkable kids, drive anywhere in inches of snow. This from a girl who once left her yellow Pinto on a hill on a major road in the middle of my current city because it was too snowy to climb. And she can do all this, with a certain fashion panache I have never been able to pull off. 

And this: what is the source of legend — She loved camp; I screamed til my mother took me home. ( She can get her own blog if she wants to rehash why, because I won't.)

When she was in high school, Pamela (never PAM) took her first trip in an airplane to California to visit the older sister of a friend. I had my birthday when she was gone, and I woke up sad that she wasn't there, but found a banner she had hand-drawn draped across the floor in front of my bedroom door. My brother walked by, saying "Happy Birthday!" and I didn't even think he knew what day it was. He had put it there for her, in her absence. She is that kind of sister.

Since then, she has taught me how to be both birthday fairy and leprechaun to my children, how to tough it up (well, sometimes) when things are not going my way. And the few times through the years when we have fallen out about one thing or another, have left me with my heart frayed at the seams.

In recent weeks, PamULA has become a patron saint of sorts, for The Gathering, which I have helped plan at my church. (She will probably not speak to me for awhile after this.) When we were looking for old photographs that defined the word "story," I ran across many, but one of PamULA, in a dress my grandmother (not the one most like her but the one most like me) made for her. She is pretty in pink, her hair curled just right, but for a dance she didn't want to go to — my brother's senior prom. A sophomore, she had been asked, not to go with a date, but to serve punch in white gloves, on the sidelines. When I showed the photograph to my friend, Katherine, the Great Designer, she was drawn to it. What girl hasn't had to wear a dress she didn't want to, to an event she would rather die than be attending? (hey, I made the picture very small)

So there was PamULA, suddenly representing the marvelous, conflicted, complicated story that is in each of us. To me, she fits perfectly in that role.


My favorite picture of her I took myself, at my niece's wedding a few years ago. PamUla is funny, and she loves nothing better than a good laugh with friends she has known for a long time, and that is exactly what she is doing here. Beautiful in her laughter. That is my sister.

When I talked to her the other day, I told her how her mug was now a LOGO. She can take heart that when we start planning our next event, she will probably be yesterday's news. Maybe. She might just become an ICON, which is what she is for me.

I hope she can forgive me if that happens.  Take a look at that first picture. She is still the Pretty One. And I am still the baby, trying my best to make a stink.

Happy Birthday Pam-ul-a, ... I love you so! 

writemuch.blogspot is the original work of author susan byrum rountree. all written work and photography is copyright protected and can only be used with written permission of the author.