Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy Birthday, Beautiful!

Today is Julie's birthday. Holla! She's still the younger of the two of us (ha!). She can still say she's in her early thirties (barely), which is way more than I can do.

Being 4 years and 11 months apart, we had a naturally tumultuous relationship as little girls. I felt like she was always trying to get in my business and she felt like I was extremely bossy. Hmm. Maybe we were both right!

Being typically territorial, we spent lots of times standing with our toes right on the carpet line between the other sister's bedroom and the hallway, being extremely annoying but figuring it was okay because we didn't actually ENTER the room.

We did, however, band together when it was really important. Like when we got the Donny and Marie dolls. We put on lots of great stage shows with those things.

Or when we went nuts about the original Cabbage Patch Dolls, with our Mom leading the way. A Babyland General Hospital opened up in Knoxville, and our family became Xavier Roberts groupies, as you can see by this photo.
Mom even made an unintentionally creepy loaf of bread that resembled a Cabbage Patch baby head for him when he came to town to sign the butts of the dolls he created.

I brought her to school for show and tell when I was in 1st grade.

She was a big hit. Speaking of hits, the other thing that I had as part of my show and tell presentation was the Fisher Price clock that she bashed me in the head with during a car trip to Canada. (I don't remember which came first: the show and tell or the head bashing.)

We bonded under the big magnolia tree that was in front of our house in Knoxville. We spent hours on the weekends under the low branches of that thing, weeding what was sprouting up underneath. Those days of weeding instigated a lifelong disgust with gardening, so much so that Jim and Julie have had a running bet: she owes him a quarter if she EVER does yardwork again in her life. It wasn't until I saw the tree a couple of years ago and noticed that the current homeowners cut off the bottom branches and made it possible for two little girls to not have to crouch so low to do their weeding. Godspeed to the current children in that house! We paved the way...

Besides standing strong together on Remembering Ruby and all of the issues we overcame together with the book (I can't imagine having done this with anyone else), our other greatest time of banding together in the face of adversity was Black Thanksgiving. I won't go into the details too much, but we spent an entire Thanksgiving weekend taking inventory on our Mom's Beanie Babies, Cherished Teddies, Precious Moments figurines, and Hallmark ornaments. The Beanies were the killer, though. I can't go into it any more than that, or I might start crying and Julie might, also. It was a time we'll never forget, unfortunately.

In 1995, Julie, Mom, and I had our first Girls' Weekend. We went to the Mall of America and had a blast.

We shopped til we dropped, rode the roller coaster at Camp Snoopy, and it was then that I discovered--because of Julie's wise recommendation--that I looked fabulous in Coffee Bean lipstick by Revlon. (Thanks again!!)

Our next Girls' weekend was in New York City, as Julie had moved out there. Mom and I flew out and the three of us did all of the touristy stuff: Broadway shows (Three nights in a row: Ragtime, Grease, and Rent!), great food, the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, and the World Trade Center.

Julie eventually came back to the Chicago area, and now she lives only about 20 minutes from us. She is always there for us, as we are always there for her. She is like a second mom to the boys: she is the only one in the world who knows them as well as Jim and I do. And that's important, because it makes it three against two.

At one point, after the boys went through phases of calling her many things (Joo-ie, Aunt Noodie, Aunt Doody, just Julie, etc.), she told them, "Why don't you just call me Beautiful?" So they did, for a while.

Another of the many things that I absolutely love and appreciate about Julie is how she has shown me so many "little" things that I never would have discovered on my own, for example, parts of New York that only a local would be able to share. After I went out there the first time and did all the touristy stuff, future visits were taken up with more "normal" things. She introduced me to Kate's Paperie in SoHo

as well as (right across the street) the most beautiful grocery store in the world, Dean and Deluca.

We have enjoyed lemonade from Balthazar together,

hot dogs and papaya juice--for breakfast--from Gray's Papaya, every day for three days straight.

She has introduced me to her friends who are awesome people. She doesn't take friendship lightly; she works hard at it and the people she includes in her inner circle care about her just as much as she does them.

We have dined at the Miracle Grill in the Village a couple of times (her favorite restaurant!),

and we've spent hours outside stage doors waiting for autographs after the many shows we've seen together, both in NYC and Chicago. We came up short, however, when we braved the Chicago winter waiting for more than an hour for Matthew Broderick and/or Nathan Lane after "The Producers" previewed in Chicago. Jim, not being a fan of the cold OR waiting for autographs, was a great sport as he stood off to the side like he didn't know us. Matthew! Nathan! If you happen to read this, e-mail me or just make a comment. We'll forgive you IMMEDIATELY for avoiding the stage door; we're sure you were just afraid of the love that was going to come your way...

Here's a slightly startled Christina Applegate, signing our Playbills after "Sweet Charity" in Chicago.

One of the funniest memories in recent history involves New York and Broadway shows. Jim sent the two of us to New York for a long weekend in honor of our birthdays last fall and, after seeing "Avenue Q" and getting our Playbills autographed,

we walked down the street to look for a bite to eat. We came upon a big row of posters and signs advertising the shows that were current Broadway shows. The first one was for Martin Short's show. We suddenly decided it would be hilarious to pose in front of these signs just like we do in front of the shows we really attend. We stopped a couple who was walking by and asked them to take a photo of us in front of Martin's sign, and they obliged.

"Yes, we imagine the show was WONDERFUL!"

We spent the next 30 minutes posing in front of various signs as if we were part of the picture and, I'm sorry to say, you're just going to have to believe me when I tell you that it was one of the funniest things ever. I guess some of what happens in NYC stays in NYC.

Julie is a great cook, too. She is not afraid to try new recipes, and our family has been the grateful beneficiary of many a gourmet meal. She has brought unbelievable culinary delights into our house, like Emeril's Italian Chicken with Spaghetti Bordelaise, Swiss Cheese Bread, Fruitastic Salad, and most recently a menu full of Mexican recipes that would have delighted any restaurant owner. (Yum. I think I'm STILL full.)

Though she's a fixture in the kitchen, the place you will find her more often than not is behind the camera.

She has photographed our boys within minutes after birth and every life stage from that point on (and her friends' weddings and children as well!). Her talents have given us the gift of being able to look at thousands and thousands of photographs and call up memories immediately as we do so.

Many of my greatest life memories involve this chick who was always my sister by blood, but now I am proud to call her my friend by choice. She is the best aunt any kid could ask for, not only to my boys but to the kids of her friends as well. She is full of life and really knows how to have fun or, as my friend Kate would say, "make her own party". She is thoughtful, caring, and generous both with resources and time. She is a blessing to her family and all of her friends.

Julie, Happy Birthday. You are more special than you could ever imagine, our sister, sister-in-law, aunt, and friend. Our birthday wish for you can be summed up in this photo from Dylan's Candy Bar in NYC:

We love you!