Junebug had three sisters and two brothers and while they each played important roles, her sister Sarah, aspired to play the most significant role in her life. Sarah, ten years older than Junebug, had mapped out big dreams for her little sister. She was a cheerleader at the K-12 school they both attended and she made sure that Junebug was the tiger mascot but clearly that was not enough. From her name in lights on Broadway as the next Annie to being the youngest kid to run the Boston Marathon, Sarah was determined for Junebug to go places. Junebug's mom worked full-time and Sarah seemingly did not have a lot of homework (?), so she had a lot of time to "parent" Junebug
Junebug loved to listen to Annie and knew every song by heart but being a tomboy who preferred GI Joe to Barbie, jeans to dresses and playing with boys to girls; her chances of making it to Broadway were slim. Despite this, Sarah knew in her heart of hearts that Junebug could be the next Annie on Broadway and she needed to get moving considering Junebug had not much talent when it came to dancing and even less interest.
Sarah signed up Junebug for tap lesssons and had a genius fast track plan. While Junebug should have definitely been in a beginner tap class, Sarah saw the timing of this might be a little slow for her Broadway dreams so she decided advanced tap was the way to go. Well, this is how advanced tap went for Junebug.
The teacher said "ball change cross right, ball change cross left" and Junebug not knowing what a "ball change" was or her left from her right (she could never remember if her freckle was on her right hand or left), tapped her way awkwardly across the dance floor as the tears welled up in her eyes and out the door never to return.
Sarah was not quite ready to give up on the Broadway dream for Junebug and for a while dragged her across town to try out for every play possible casting children. Junebug would pretty much do anything for an ice cream soda from Elliston's Soda Shop. They would practice a script Sarah would write for her over and over again but Junebug never got a single call back but she did enjoy many ice cream sodas.
It was time to focus on a new goal and the Boston Marathon was next. According to Sarah, nine was the youngest ever to run the marathon and Junebug was eight so there was hope. Although not too much considering Junebug could not go long without taking a puff of her asthma inhaler. Sarah signed her up for her first race, the Turkey Trot, where Junebug finished the one mile strong throwing up over the finish line. Maybe it was the brown polyester pants she was wearing and spoonful of honey Coach Sarah gave her before running?
Sarah was unstoppable as always and this did not deter her from signing up Junebug for two local running clubs and although Junebug never ran the Boston Marathon, she won a free pair of Dolphin running shorts at a running club meeting where she was the youngest by a decade and Sarah did somehow get her picture in a book about running. Under the picture it read "when it comes to running, kids are natural." Unless they have asthma I might add.
Sarah would soon be heading off to college when Junebug started 3rd Grade and time was running out for their many adventures together. In the fall, their mom would remarry and Junebug would have a sister, Suzanne, eleven days younger than her and life was changing. Her sister, Rebecca and brother, Harry were already gone and Adam would be off to college in two years and then it would be Junebug, her new sister, her mom and her new dad.
Sarah was off to a new life on the East Coast for four years and came home for the holidays with pictures of her dancing to punk rock music, stories of meeting Iggy Pop and dancing in a Mick Jagger video. Junebug daydreamed in class about Sarah coming home from college and peeking in through her classroom window and surprising her. After college she moved to Switzerland for graduate school and then New York City. She would send Junebug awesome stickers for her sticker collection, a green David Bowie album, The Preppy Handbook before any of her friends had it and fancy Swiss chocolate. She would have funky boyfriends, funky hair and cool jobs when Junebug went to visit her sister in New York City in her very tiny apartment.
One hot Nashville summer afternoon following her first year of college when she must have been bored out of her mind, Sarah began working on a project with Suzanne and me. Of course, she took Suzanne under her wing when she came into our family with big dreams in mind for her too. She took pictures of many of our fancier outfits by themselves and separate pictures of us posing in Sak Fifth Avenue S'Fannies underwear she had brought home for us form the East Coast and voila, one dream of hers came true. It was a far cry from Broadway but we were STARS of our own "Jessie & Suzanne Paper Doll Book" and we could dress paper doll cut outs of ourselves in all of the fancy clothes we never wanted to wear which is exactly what we, being tomboys, wanted I am sure?!
Junebug was maybe glad she could make one of Sarah's dreams come true and definitely grateful Sarah was in the house in the couple of years following the night of her loud and sudden loss. It was hard to imagine what life would have been like without her because with five kids and a full-time job, my mom had a big load to carry. While Sarah had big dreams for me she may have wished came true, she did not realize that the greatest gift she gave me were her stories about an old toy story and dolphins that were beneath the sewer in the alley behind our house on Fairfax Avenue. When I tied a string to a stick to fish in the sewer for the magic in her imagination, it was where my lessons of hope began.
Upside Down by Jack Johnson