Friday, July 23, 2010

Simply Stellar

Because I am at least one-tenth as smart as I am self-absorbed and the very real possibility exists that I could get caught up doing something that is all about me tomorrow and miss it altogether, I am jumping the gun today and sending a birthday shout out to my sister Kara a day early. Kara is one of the world's truly great souls. If there is one among our familial tribe who deserves an additional day of birthday good vibes and wishes, I sure as hell know it is not me and I would lay money that it is Kara. What the Hell, I will say it, "Happy Day Early Birthday!"

Our family of six siblings is neatly divided into two little subsets of three kids each. Bill, Evan and Kelly comprise the first half of the train. Mom and Dad took a respite and after a few years (Kara is I think five years younger than Kelly) they resumed the production line - popping out Kara, Jill and (saving the best for last - he says tongue firmly planted in cheek) me. Kara, Jill and I essentially went to school together (kindergarten through high school) our entire lives. Kara graduated from W-H in 1981 when Jill was wrapping up tenth grade and I was doing likewise to eighth grade.

Once upon a time, in a lost era I like to call "the 1980's", our mutual Alma mater used to field varsity sports for girls in sports such as field hockey and lacrosse. W-H not only fielded teams in those sports but State Champions. Kara and Jill played together on at least one of W-H's State Champs in field hockey. Kara was the goalkeeper and Jill essentially roamed all over the field scaring the living bejeebers out of the opposition. My memory tells me that their championship season was 1980 when Kara was a 12th grader and Jill a 10th grader but 30 years further on up the road, I would not bet August's mortgage payment on the accuracy of my recollection.

What I recall most pointedly about the girls' field hockey and lacrosse teams - other than riding all over the New Jersey countryside with Dad to watch them play - was that at some point the players developed a code for communicating with one another out on the field, which code involved not referring to one another by a player's real name but instead using a "little old Jewish woman's" name. Here in 2010 I cannot recall what all the nicknames were for all of the players way back when during the Carter Administration. The only one I remember for certain was the one Kara either was given by her teammates or adopted as her own. Perhaps I remember her nickname so vividly because I never quite understood of using a coded system to identify one's goalkeeper. Everyone knew where Kara was during the game - at least during field hockey - as she was the player positioned on the goal line making sure that nothing got beyond it or her.

As I have long ago learned (marriage will do that to a fellow), what I think is of little consequence. Kara became "Stella". And all these years later it is a good thing she did. If I was to hazard a guess I would have to say that I probably refer to Kara as "Stella" or "Stel" four to five times as often as I do by her given name. Jill does so as well. My kids are as likely to call her "Aunt Stel" as "Aunt Kara". It is a mystery to me at what point in our collective life experience she underwent the conversion from Irish Catholic daughter to Jewish grandmother but she did. And it stuck. And it still sticks to this day.

Whether by her given name or her nom de plume, she truly is one hell of a fine human being. While I could try to chalk some of it off to the fact that she is a bit older and a bit taller than I am, I know in the little charcoal briquette that I call my heart that her being a significantly better person than am I comes neither from her age nor her height. It comes from her heart. Always has. Always will.

Happy Birthday Stel! I know I am a day early. In my humble opinion, it is an occasion worth getting a jump on celebrating. Enjoy your day tomorrow. And here is to hoping that a safe, healthy and happy year is ushered in with it for you and your own version of the Four Horsemen.

-AK

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