Sally Su and Mary Jane

My cousin Sally Su had curly blond hair; Mary Jane wanted curly hair. Sally Su could hang by her knees upside-down on her swing set; Mary Jane worried she might fall on her head. Sally Su took off all her clothes and ran from the Wigwam Lodge to Klimek’s Lodge; Mary Jane couldn’t believe her daring. Sally Su pinned diapers on frogs and set them loose in the reeds. Sally Su sang “I’m A Little Puffer-Belly” on a makeshift stage and all the tourists clapped.

See how Sally looks straight into the camera; see how Mary Jane looks sideways, leans away from what is taking place. What is the meaning of this? Watching these two from my chair in the future of over sixty-five years, aware of the lives they stepped into after the day of this picture, I have to say not much has changed in the archaeology of their personalities. They became simply more of what they were. She still faces life head on. Mary Jane…well…

Always I assume there is a meaning. I’ve studied life through the filter of that belief from the beginning as though presence of meaning is obvious; if I can’t find it, it’s my duty to keep searching. This is part of what keeps the child in me hidden and requires that I find her, finally, while I still have a chance. Because it was a mistake from the beginning; the truth seems to be that meaning is never obvious. It’s as the poet says:

And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment.

This I know: few persons will stay with you forever. But Sally stays. I knew that even after I left her to enter the convent, during those years that Mary Jane was veiled from everyone, even her. Secretly the thought ran through my mind that if I had to stop being a nun, if I had to leave this enclosed place, I would go to her. She still would be there. She would look me straight in the eyes, telling me I would survive this, and I would believe her.

She did this for me every single day after my husband, John Weber, died. Every single day she called me with encouragement in stories, in laughter, in tears, in a voice full of faith in my tenacity. She did this for an entire year.

Sally has a gift of passion. She consumes the present moment with a passion few know and more than a few cannot abide. But she will hold tight to you even as her rage erupts over some injustice. Even if she slams some door, she’ll be waiting on the other side. She acts life out for you, right in your face, all the magnificent passion of it, and you can either take it or not, but she stays. In her heart she stays. She won’t flinch when she loves.  And her love is massive.