Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Happy Birthday, Liane!

This year, Liane has taken on the mantle of the Birthday/Parent's Day/Any Special Day Essayist, and done a marvelous job in writing about people in our family. Well, today is her birthday and I doubt she is going to write an ode to herself, so it's time for me to turn the proverbial tables on her.

Liane has always been present in my life, from my earliest memories. You know that old saying, “ All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten?” Well, I think in some ways, all I really needed to know, I learned from Liane. She told me about hell and The Great Tribulation. She told me about bad words. She told me about tithing, I think. She told me about Hitler. She told me about Bibleschool, about everyone's relationship in the family tree ( no small feat), about static electricity, Parcheesi, Monopoly, and many, many other things. She told me stories.
( More on that later.) She told me what we were supposed to do and not do. I don't think my parents had to really teach me much about what they expected from me, because Liane had already got to me and transferred her knowledge of our place in the world. She was the single most powerful figure in my life for a time.

I remember when she was sick she would read stories to me until she was hoarse. And not just The Cat in the Hat type stories. She would read whole books like Charlotte's Web and Little Men. And she would tell stories that she made up. In the days when we shared a room, I had an earlier bedtime than she did, but I trained myself to stay awake and wait for her to come in and then I would beg her to tell me stories. She would tell great and hilarious stories of adventure, mostly featuring us, and people we knew.

Liane taught me about a lot of things when I was little, and she continues to teach me as we grow older. I really respected her hard work in college, and her year of field work afterward. During my long courtship, it was a good feeling to know that she knew what a long courtship was like. In so many different instances, she has come up against difficulties, and she tenaciously works through them.

I think one of the things that I admire most in Liane is her ability to just go on. To go on in the midst of fearful circumstances, and blinding grief. You don't understand, you are overwhelmed, everything is dark, changed and unfamiliar, God seems suddenly silent, but you just go on and keep breathing, even when you can't imagine that the darkness will ever leave. I think she is one of the most balanced, healthy mourners I know. She cherishes no easy platitudes or fake optimism. Watching someone you are close to as they go through difficulties, you find out in a new way what they are really like. I always knew, growing up, that Liane was tough; I looked up to her because of this. I could never make any claims to toughness. But now I see how her toughness is interwoven with love and fragility, and it makes her more beautiful and real than ever. (Real in the sense of being her own person, of being genuine, of not pretending to be something she's not.)

One of the games that we played as children was called “Booby Trap.” It harked back to ancient times ( I think it belonged to Daddy as a child), and involved removing little wooden circular pegs one at a time from a tray. The problem was, they were all jammed together against a bar which could be moved back and forth on a spring and if you took the wrong one, you risked moving the bar, and losing points. ( Sorry - it's the best I can do to describe it.) It was quite nerve-wracking because any wrong move and the bar could shift suddenly, sending up a frightening geyser of little red and yellow pegs. You might even get your fingers pinched by the bar as it snapped back with alarming speed and ferocity across the tray. ( This game would surely be banned by toymakers today.) The red pegs were bigger, and worth more points; they were also more dangerous to try to remove...but Liane's motto, and ceaseless challenge, was, “ Go for the gold!” ( which was slightly ironic because in this case, the “gold” was really red....The actual little 'gold' ones, she scorned.) I would always wimp out and go for the safe little yellow ones, but Liane would often opt for the riskier red ones...and most of the time, she was uncannily successful. That's Liane's spirit: “Go for the gold!”

Liane is still going for the gold. She is investing in life, even after life has disappointed and wounded her. I respect and love her for that. “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

Happy Birthday, Liane!

Go over to her blog and give her your best wishes.


Avalanche Cowpoke said...

Your sis is totally awesome!!!

Mrs. RF said...

I haven't thought of that game in years! I loved to play that - so much satisfaction in pulling out one of the pegs with no movement of the bar. Endless hours of fun. Thanks for the memories- and you do have such an awesome sister, who indeed is still going for the gold.

ljmax said...

Wow, thank you Claire! You made me laugh and cry all over the place!

melbrown said...

Beautifully written, Claire...

Three (plus some) cheers for Liane!

Nate Hazen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nate Hazen said...

We miss you guys

kk said...

Amen to all that. Very eloquently put and all true. Wow! That would have taken me at least one day if not several. Now that's what I really would liked to have written.