By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 16, 2014
I was a terrible little sister, I must confess. My sister, Rosemary, put up with so much that I often suspect she earned herself a get-out-of-purgatory-free card.
I don’t know why I was such a pest, but I do recall that when we played board games, I had the incredibly annoying habit of quitting whenever I was losing. I would actually storm out of the room, leaving her boiling with anger because she’d been cheated out of the triumph of declaring herself the winner.
When my sister reached her early teen years she loved going to the movies with her girlfriends. Well aware of this, her terrible little sister would beg our mom to allow her to accompany the entourage.
After I whined and sulked a good long while, my poor mother gave in, figuring it couldn’t do much harm if I went along. My sister was less than enthusiastic because what teenager wants her younger sibling trailing along?
I also nominated myself chief tattletale. For some inexplicable reason, I got some sort of perverse pleasure from collecting tidbits of knowledge about the older girls that I could then convey to my mother.
My memories of sisterly rivalry come back vividly whenever I hear the story of Mary and Martha at Mass. At one point Jesus comes to visit the two sisters, and Mary spends her time sitting at the Lord’s feet, listening to him, while Martha is left with all the work in the kitchen.
It’s not in the Gospels, but I can picture what might have been happening behind the scenes. I see Martha scurrying around seasoning the food, setting the table and trying to be sure everything will be perfect. And I imagine her glancing at her sister with exasperation and perhaps giving her a look that conveys, “Can’t you see I need help?”
The Gospels tell us that when Martha couldn’t take it anymore, she went to Jesus and complained. She evidently wanted him to straighten things out by ordering her sister to pitch in on the work. And as we know, Jesus surprised Martha by praising her sister’s decision to sit quietly.
My sister also reached a point now and again when she couldn’t take my shenanigans any longer. Instead of turning to Jesus in prayer about her problems, however, she took matters into her own hands.
It was then she drew out of her arsenal the one weapon I was helpless against, which was the threat of harm coming to my cherished stuffed dog, Poppa Pluto, whom I loved with every fiber of my being.
My sister was well aware of my inordinate affection for this fellow, so when she was at her wits’ end with me, she would tie a noose around his neck and dangle him from the ceiling. I would weep and scream and promise that I would never, ever tattle on her again, and only then would she release my beloved from his snare.
After that I would sit quietly for a good long while, being as nice as possible—that is, until the next skirmish developed.
Eventually we grew up and made our peace with each other. I became very good at keeping secrets and left my days of tattling behind. My sister has been gracious enough to overlook the rancor of our early years. At times she even insists that I wasn’t such a bad little sister.
But if you take a look at that poor old dog, you’ll notice his head is held on by embroidery thread and his tail is falling off. Really, that’s all the proof I need to make my point.
Lorraine Murray’s latest book is “Death Dons a Mask,” the third in the Francesca Bibbo series. Artwork is by Jef Murray. Readers may contact the Murrays at email@example.com.