Rural Living

Sisterhood and the Progression of 'That Baby'

by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer


 Margo Oxendine

Kathy and I were at opposite ends of the sibling scale in childhood. We rarely played with each other and, when we did, some sort of fracas ensued.

Occasionally in this column, I have mentioned my sister, Kathy. She lives just four miles away. So near, yet so far, as they say.

I was four and a half when she was born. I’d been the solo Queen Bee, and wasn’t the least bit excited or happy about the interloping newcomer. For a while, I called her “That Baby.” Oh, That Baby was grabbing all the attention formerly focused on me alone. Bah!

She was maybe a month old when I crept into her room and showered her all over with baby powder. I remember it: There were two little open holes — her tiny nostrils — where puffs of powder blew out. Thank heavens, she could breathe; but I didn’t think that at the time.

I ran downstairs. “Mama! Come look at what That Baby did!”

Mama came to look and was not amused; nor did she blame That Baby, as I’d wished.

I’m ashamed to confess this, but one night, Mom and Daddy drove to the store. They left me in the car with That Baby. And a candy bar wrapped in flimsy tinfoil. I ate the candy and then got an idea. I rolled bits of tinfoil into tiny balls, and stuffed one in each of That Baby’s ears. Then, I chuckled to myself.

About four o’clock in the morning, That Baby was screaming. She woke the whole house. Everyone but I was concerned. They rushed around, discussing the perplexing problem. They called the doctor (you could do that, back in the day). Finally, tired of all the hubbub, I suggested innocently, “Maybe she has tinfoil in her ears.”

Yep. So, instead of going to the beach the next day, we had to stay home. I spent the day in the “doghouse”; Even the doctor was mad at me. I blamed That Baby.

Kathy and I were at opposite ends of the sibling scale in childhood. We rarely played with each other and, when we did, some sort of fracas ensued. She was a tomboy; I was prissy. I did not like to get dirty. She loved digging in the dirt, collecting worms, actually touching insects.

We all remember the day she reluctantly climbed on Santa’s lap and, after the customary, “What do you want for Christmas, little girl?” folded her arms and glowered, “Well, I don’t want a d*** doll!”

We parted ways for college and careers (if my oddball pursuits could be called “careers”). We usually lived at opposite ends of the country.

Finally, our true sisterly natures emerged. When Kathy lived in South Carolina and I in California, we mailed Christmas packages back home. Turns out, we each gave Daddy exactly the same thing, wrapped in the exact same side of reversible gift paper. What are the odds?

We look nothing alike. She’s blonde/blue; I’m brown/hazel. Yet, our voices are eerily similar. We’re both good singers; we’re cantors at church; we enjoy and devour the same authors.

Magazine deadlines being what they are, I write this the day after Christmas. I just spent a wonderful afternoon at Kathy’s. Now retired, she was a chef for 37 years. When she makes a meal, I don’t eat the entire day, so I arrive famished. Hers is truly the only house I like to go to for dinner; I know she will fix exactly what I love, because they’re her favorites, too. And, it will be high-end restaurant fare, except better than what you find most anywhere these days.

Yesterday, we had inch-thick, perfectly medium-rare beef tenderloin, Potatoes Daphne (divine, but don’t try to find them in your hometown diner!), spinach and mushrooms in puff pastry, yeast rolls.

I always save room for Kathy’s desserts; she was, after all, once a prize-winning pastry chef. She has actually created a dessert in puff pastry shaped like swans! Yesterday, we had a parfait of Haagen-Dazs, Chambourd, Godiva liqueur, topped with a perfect swirl of real whipped cream, accompanied by homemade almond macaroons. See what I mean?

Our gifts to each other were a revelation. Among them were certificates to the same restaurants, and the same place for pedicures. I hand-wrote a certificate for lunch, with me, at our favorite Lewisburg, West Virginia, restaurant. Kathy gave me a $25 gift certificate to that same place. So: I can take my sister out to lunch and, in an ironic twist, she’s already paid for it!

Who knew? “That Baby” has become one of my dearest friends.

Enjoy a book of Margo’s columns, A Party of One, by ordering at 540-468-2146, Mon-Thurs, 9-5, or email:  



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