Wednesday, August 01, 2007

My Irish Twin Sisters

Couple of days ago it was two of my sisters' birthdays. Irish twins, Pat and Regina were both born on the same day, July 28, but eight years apart. Pat's the second of our 6; Regina the baby of the family. Every time they have another birthday I can't help but think what people must think when I refer to Regina as the baby: Heck, we're all past 50, though I think we all still consider ourselves just kids with a couple of years and some good experience under our belts.
Pat, who's four years older than me, was/is an amazing sister. When we were kids she'd give us pony rides on her back, and had different temperments for the different ponies she pretended to be. She once had us all collecting money for a real horse until our mom realized we were serious--I think we were up over $100--and broke the truth to us that there would be no pony as our yard, 75 X 100, just 1/6 of an acre, wasn't big enough to keep one.
Pat was also an excellent baton twirler: with my sister Peg--just between Pat and myself--they started a baton twirling group, the Whitestone Twirlers, and got good enough that they were finally invited to participate in the St. Paddy's Day Parade up 5th Avenue in New York City. Pat, like Peg, also had a shelf of trophies for both individual competitions and as a duo together.
But Pat's greatest love was being an artist: as a kid of 10 she won the Annual Whitestone (Queens, New York) store window painting competition held on Halloween, and later got a full scholarship to Pratt Institute. As an adult she turned to design, and with her partner Frank Olinsky designed the MTV logo and that earned them Time Magazine's Design of the Decade and a slot in Time's 100 Top Designs of the Century. She also did a host of album covers when those still counted, including some for Sting and the pretty famous The Cars Greatest Hits--which featured my sister Peg's legs sitting on the front hood of a car, looking real fine.
She found time to become a Tai Chi teacher and then an accupuncturist as well, while remaining a fine fine artist.
And she was always, to me, both an inspiration and a sounding board for both my life and my writing. She designed the sets for several of my plays that were produced in the 1970s on the Off Off Broadway circuit; she took chances with life that inspired me to take chances with life. The girl had/has guts, heart and creativity all at once.
Regina, on the other hand, was four years younger than me, was my baby when I was a kid. At four I was old enough to change her, and later, to be the one to give her pony rides on my back. I taught her how to ride a bike and when she got in over her head with boys she'd come to me to help solve it. When I was working as a chef in NYC, she got a job as a waitress at the next place over. And what a waitress she was: She could be thanking one table at the same time she was telling another that they shouldn't order a dish if they don't know what it is, and leave both tables happy, somehow.
And when she married, it was to the toughest guy in New York, Tommy Leonard, from the legendary Leonard family of New York Policemen. Tommy wasn't a cop, but he was a tough as one, while still having an Irish twinkle in his eye.
And Regina, at about age 30, got fed up with herself for not having frinished high school, so she did. Then she enrolled at Hunter College of the City University of New York and finished that. Then she became a teacher and got her Masters and raised a great son, my nephew Tommy, all a the same time. And she twice won Teacher of the Year for her school, an award voted on by the other teachers. Not bad for a High School dropout.
And somewhere along the line she became my sounding board as an adult. For years she's been the one straightening me out when I'm lost, or at least making me look at myself differently enough to see what I might do to fix this or that about myself.
Those are my Irish twin sisters and I think I was a pretty lucky to have them and have them still.
Happy birthday Pat. Happy birthday Reg. I hope you both have great years. You deserve them.


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