Brand building through storytelling

My sister and me: the next chapter

Joyce RonaLast fall my sister Joyce and I shared the truth about our fraught, sometimes crazy-making, never less than loving relationship in MORE magazine. Impassioned comments have been coming our way ever since from women (and a few men) who tell us, “Hey, you two sound just like me and my sister.” Or “If you two could learn to accept each other the way you really are, maybe there’s hope for us.” Or even “My sister and I haven’t spoken for years, but I’m sending her a copy of your article and crossing my fingers.”

On Monday CBC rebroadcast Shelagh Rogers‘ good humoured but searching interview with Joyce and me, first broadcast when the article appeared. Now some of you are asking, “Where can I find it?” No need to go to the library: you can read my sister essay right here. For Joyce’s, here’s the companion page on her web site.

What we wrote for MORE, from two contrasting perspectives, was a no-holds-barred story with a hopeful conclusion. But life is not as tidy as a magazine piece, no matter how honest you are. Your life keeps twisting and turning long after the magazine has gone to the recycling box. I’ve been waiting for just the right moment to tell you the next chapter in our story. So here goes.

Joyce and I had just signed off on final revisions to the copy when MORE’s U.S. edition broached the matter of a photo shoot. They could either fly Joyce to my condo in Toronto or fly me to a shoot at her place in Mill Valley, California, which hugs the side of a mountain and is just down the road from majestic Muir Woods. In typical older-sister fashion, I announced, “I’ll come to California!”

Next decision: I could stay in a hotel, courtesy of MORE, or at Joyce’s house. She wanted to host me; that was clear. She offered to to throw a party in my honour and bake me a pie just the way I like it (and never learned to do myself). But she and I had never managed to stay under one roof without pursed lips, heavy sighs and the occasional fist-shaking argument. Could we pull this off? Just how far had we really come? Might as well rise to the challenge. I took a deep breath and said, “I’d like to stay with you.”

My sister couldn’t have been more thoughtful. She slept on her couch, giving me her bedroom. She drove me to her ballet barre class, to a glorious hiking spot and to one of those adorably funky restaurants that are everywhere in California, and practically nowhere back home. That’s my sister for you: always in motion, never a pause for reflection. Or so it seems to me, a lifelong seeker of stillness.

Joyce’s bedroom had no curtains to bless me with another precious hour of sleep. Sunlight spilled over the exuberant tangle of her stuff, which burst from the drawers and cascaded from the window seat. (I like to hide my clutter; hers is a form of self-expression.) The aroma of strong, fresh coffee drifted up from the kitchen, where Joyce was about to cook me scrambled eggs. I’d been awake all of 30 seconds and already I felt immersed in her festive, oceanic busyness.

One afternoon during my stay, Joyce logged onto the computer around 5 and said, “There’s a Lucinda Williams concert in Oakland tonight. I could check Craig’s List for tickets. Want to go?”

“Sure,” I said, doubting she could make it happen. In my world, concert tickets require deliberation and planning. But within minutes Joyce was bombing off somewhere (the opposite direction from Oakland) to buy our tickets while I took a nap. By the time she’d picked me up and parked near the Paramount Theater (anArt Deco treasure that’s well worth a visit even if you’re not going to a concert) we had just enough time for quick pre-concert dinner. Regular meals, along with window blinds, have always made my list of life’s essentials. I spotted a tapas bar next to the theater. “This looks good,” I said.

My sister sized up the menu. “They don’t serve wine. Let’s keep looking.”

On we strode down one seedy block after another while I kept checking my watch. Where on earth do people eat before a concert at the Paramount? At last we found an inviting little bar with a tin ceiling. We perched on stools and asked for the menu. We were told, “Sorry, we don’t serve food. Why don’t you order a pizza?”

Back we scurried to the tapas bar, only to find that hungry Lucinda Williams fans had just wolfed down every last sliver of ham and tortilla. “Don’t you have any food at all?” I pleaded. They had one chocolate cookie for the two of us. In days gone by, we would have checked to see which half was bigger and contained more chips. We’re way beyond that now.

When Lucinda Williams finally appeared, after a soporific warmup act, it soon became clear that my sister, my polar opposite, could read my thoughts. “My God,” Joyce whispered. “What’s happened to Lucinda! Look at the weight she’s put on.”

On the way back to Joyce’s house, I scanned the streets for promising restaurants. Half a chocolate chip cookie would never hold me until morning. “It’s too late to go to dinner,” Joyce said. “This town closes up early.”

Back at Joyce’s house, we dined on the remains of the previous night’s dinner party, with half a bottle of wine and hearty slices of ice-cream topped pie for dessert. We decided that perhaps Lucinda Williams had quit smoking.

It wasn’t the meal I expected. But I have to say that every bite was delicious.


Posted by Rona

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