By Claudia Luiz/ Local Columnist
IN THE PINES
There I was, driving down a long, long winding road, shaded by a beautiful arbor of tall, majestic pines on either side. I didn’t know which way to look. Finally, we approached the house. “This is not just a house” I said to my husband. “It is a villa.” It was my little sister's new house.
My sister and are very close. We grew up in a high-rise apartment in New York City and shared a room for most of that time. Quite often, we chose to share a bed. Even my current house which is moderately small seems enormous to me compared to that apartment: my children each have their own rooms; I have a public and a private office; we have a living room upstairs and a living room downstairs, and an entire den just for our piano.
But this, my sister’s house, was easily three times the size of mine. The rooms were huge. There were a lot of them. I couldn’t understand why my sister wanted all that space - it just seemed strange. It was as if we were no longer sisters: as if we lived on different planets.
We finally pulled up to the house, and there my sister was, a look of pride and joy on her face I did not recognize. She took us on a tour. “Like it, Clodi?” she whispered. “Oh, yes, yes.” I answered breathlessly. I have known my sister intimately for almost half a century. Why would I feel somewhat shy?
My husband was walking around nodding his head appreciatively, muttering things like “Gee, maybe we should do this after all.” I looked at him in amazement. Did I even know him?
The "villa" had been rescued from neglect by my little sister’s husband, Dave, who is a contractor. Space metamorphosize under Dave's touch; I love people who see a wall and want to move it. This was the fifth house they had renoveted together, and it was "it". Destination: we have arrived
But back to the story: I felt speechless during most of lunch and throughout the evening, like a stranger in a strange land. Part of what I felt was betrayal, I think: how could my little sister do something so different from what I expected, from what I would do? Why didn't she consult with me before taking this leap into something so radical? So radically different from me? I mean, 15 rooms? It was all so strange, exciting and new.
How is it that we come to feel we “know” someone? Is it better to be surprised? Or do we simply long for the (albeit) stagnant comfort of the familiar?
Other people had arrived to the house, and now, someone was re-filling my glass. My father was raising his high for a toast. I heard my own voice as if from a great distance saying “CONGRATULATIONS!" I was stunned, in both senses of the word.
This villa in the pines and the wine got an old blues ballad coursing through my brain. It went like this: "In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines. Been shivering, all, all, all night long.” It's a song about loneliness and about feeling deprived. Aha!. I guess that's how I was feeling. I missed my old sister and the way life was. I missed her old house and the ways that it resembled mine.
In the weeks following my winding drive through her pines I told other people about the new house. Actually, I think I was boasting a little.
In my own mind, I began to compare myself to my sister. I carefully tallied my own successes. It was a fairly even match, but still, I felt she was ahead. This generated some motivation for some kind of big push. Her success was contagious. I wanted to know her again. To be where she was; to catch up. Maybe, feeling that I didn't know her could be good.
I crane my neck each time I visit my little sister to view the pines. I think I like it all and it's exciting. Then, I'm not sure. But I think so.