Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Fences - 351
Sarah Van Name

My sister tumbles above the arms of her well-wishers like the foam at the front of a rollicking wave. Little girls in dresses toddle from place to place, sparks of light flitting around the ballroom, and klezmer music lays out a sheet for laughter to bounce on. Judith is married now.

Last night, she couldn’t sleep, so we sat outside on the front yard of our parents’ house. I asked her, after a period of quiet and cricket-song, if she really wanted to do this. “Yes,” she replied. I have never heard her sound so steady, though her face was turned to the stars.

I can only imagine her thoughts. But I was remembering all the games we played here when the fences of our neighbors’ yards were the limits of our world. One day Bobby Whitehouse – two years my senior, Judith’s age – ran up to where we were drawing a hopscotch on the driveway, plopped down without invitation, and started singing. “Hey Jude,” he sang, “don’t make it bad. Take a sad song, and make it better.” He reached out one chubby arm to her and folded his other hand over his heart like an Italian virtuoso.

He was the first kid we had ever met with parents smart enough to play the Beatles to their children, and for that, Judith permitted him to draw with us. That evening, we made our parents play us the song and didn’t stop playing it for six months.

“Hey, Jude,” I sang softly to myself as I sketched out the lines of the constellations in my head. My sister laughed a little.

“As we were drawing our hopscotch,” she said.


Somewhere between the aunts and babies and dancing, I step to the side. Bobby finds me and gives me a hug – probably his hundredth of the day, but it’s genuine. We watch my sister. When the band transitions to the last song, I recognize the Beatles.

“You didn’t,” I said to Bobby.

“I had to,” he replied, and with a smile as wide as a river, steps forward to dance with his bride.

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