Sisterly Times

This entry is part of a deeply personal series, called Wish You Were There, that’s unrelated to travel.

I’ve told some harrowing stories here about experiences I had with my big sister, Kim. I’d like to say we shared incredibly wonderful times, too, but really we weren’t that close (except for the whole blaming-me-for-suicide-attempts type of stuff).  The eight years between us didn’t help. But surely we did do some standard, sisterly things together, right?

Cartoon Camping in Glacier

I was living in Montana for graduate school with Paul when Kim decided to fly out to visit with our mom.  Maybe Kim was living in New Jersey at the time, and her daughter, Katherine, wasn’t that sick yet?  Mom must’ve been in Virginia working in an office.  Wherever they were in their lives, they came to me, and we had straight-up fun.

Kim made matching t-shirts for us three with paint pens.  Each one had a bouquet of balloons on it and some cute phrase like, “Cox Girls Reunion, 1991.”  We’re wearing them in this photo that I love.

We drove from my house in Missoula up to Glacier National Park, and this was before Glacier got so busy that you had to have a ticket to drive on Going to the Sun Road.  I used to go up about one weekend a month over the summers, so it was easy peasy to throw a tent in the car trunk and drive up there to show them around, then pitch it somewhere easy for the night.

Except nothing was easy with Kim.  Why did any of us think she could sleep in a tent?  Mom and I were together in a borrowed tent, and Kim was in mine, but she bitched long enough in the early night that we yelled over at her to just get in the car.  Then I swear it looked like the car was made out of rubber, with Kim inside pressing the doors and ceiling like a cartoon baby kicking in the womb.  All night long she flopped around, and we could hear comic-style cussing all muffled coming from inside.

Also in Kim fashion, though, she somehow got plenty of sleep and woke up pleased as punch, while it was Mom and me who were all bleary and angry at her.  Wait, this was supposed to be a good story, right?  

We really did have fun.  I have this anomalous photo of myself in my underwear climbing out of a glacier-fed lake; as I remember it, Kim thought I looked so beautiful that she snapped a shot.  Or, she was making fun of me for having jumped in freezing water!  Probably both. We stopped at the House of Vortex and Mystery and took pictures of ourselves hanging on to bars and defying gravity. I wonder where those old photos are.

Mermaid Hair

Years later, Kim came to me again, this time when I was living in West Virginia and she was visiting Finn. We engaged in the iconic sibling experience of dying my hair.  You know the line by now: it was no ordinary dye job.

I’d been having this recurring dream of swimming through a kelp forest, and my long hair would flow out behind me, the same color as the kelp and the water. Kim said, “Let’s do that!”  Only she could envision such a thing, and frankly she’s the only one I would trust to make it happen.

Now, this was before lots of people started dying their hair crazy, unnatural colors.  In fact, there was only one brand of color you could buy via mail order, but she took over the project entirely and had dye and towels and everything ready in my old kitchen for a weekend project.  

She parted my hair horizontally in the back, ear to ear, and set aside the top section to leave it naturally dark.  The bottom she bleached entirely, then divided in two layers, horizontal, again.  The layer closest to my neck she dyed a startling day-glow green, and the layer above that a rich night-sky blue.  

I don’t have good photos of the result, but it was like magic.  My hair was cut in many layers, so wisps of green showed at the tips, mixed in with that gorgeous blue, and the color would show when I swung my hair around. It was like wearing a cape with a dramatic lining.

Kim’s personality was more like a cherry-red bull-fighting cape, but that made her an expert in flair, always happy to share it, from silly t-shirts to actually tasteful mermaid hair.  I need to remember these stories just as clearly as the others.  

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