Remembering Anna Jane....
JUST A FEW OF MANY MEMORIES
Anna Jane was born in 1938. I came three years later. I think that age difference tends to discourage closeness between siblings. Then add to that the difference in interests between boys and girls, and it’s understandable why we weren’t close as kids. I remember Anna Jane playing with dolls. I had Zero interest in dolls. Then as she got a little older she converted Mom’s sewing room into a classroom where we played school. Since I wasn’t crazy about school, her classroom was near the bottom of my interest list. However, I would occasionally make a fighter sweep through the room and erase her black board. For some reason she found this extremely annoying.
Anyway, it’s interesting which memories of your childhood stick with you most vividly. I remember one Sunday afternoon, our Uncle Fred (one of Dad’s brothers who owned Stickell Store on the other side of Greencastle, PA) was visiting. He had just gotten a brand-new fast Buick. AJ and I were admiring it, and we got in the back seat. All cars at that time had ash trays. Well in addition to the ash tray this car had a little duffer about the size of your thumb beside the ash tray. You could push it in and a few seconds later it would pop up, and when you lifted it out it was orange on the bottom. In Anna Jane’s attempt to figure out what it was, she put it up to her face. The cigarette lighter immediately burned a nice little red blister right on the end of her nose. Of course I thought that was the funniest thing I had seen in weeks, and showed no sympathy whatsoever for her pain, hurt feelings, and embarrassment. Thus again not endearing myself to my dear sister.
Another vivid memory. (We have five concrete steps going up to our front porch, and I’d spent a lot of time throwing a tennis or rubber ball up against those steps. It was kind of neat. The ball would come back as a grounder, line drive, or a fly. However, it would occasionally come back onto the porch.) This particular afternoon, Anna Jane had nothing better to do than to pester her little brother. Every time the ball spun back on the porch, she would catch it and throw it as far as she could down the street. Well, I finally had enough, so I got back on the pitcher’s mound, and fired the ball as hard as I could right at her. She very gracefully, with a smile and no fanfare, stepped aside and the ball went right through the front porch window. I never understood why I was the one who got chastised, and I was the one who had to pay for the window.
So the point is, when we were kids, AJ had her friends and she did her thing, I had my friends and I did my thing. Our primary interaction was deviling each other.
As I started my sophomore year at Frederick High, Anna Jane went off to college, and my mother after 20-25 years at home, started teaching to help pay for our education. Like many families back then, we always had food on the table and some new clothes to start the school year, but there wasn’t any money in the bank.
For her junior year, AJ went abroad to Swansea in Wales. A couple of days before she sailed she and I took the train from Baltimore to New York. We spent two days sightseeing, seeing a Broadway show (West Side Story) and both nights we were there we went to Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant and had lobster. Then we joined Mom and Dad, who drove up and we watched her board the ship and set sail for the UK.
There’s no question that those two days in New York were the turning point in our relationship. From then on, even though we never lived close together, we were always very close. During the year that she was in Wales, I don’t know if she sent me a letter, or whether I overheard Mother and Dad talking, but she did not have any spending money. Dollar bills could easily be exchanged for pounds. (In the sixth grade, at the age of 12, I got a paper route, and I always had a job after that. So I had my own money.) Hearing she could really use some bucks, I put 10 $1 bills in an envelope and fired them off to her. Dad died a week after I went off to college so when Anna Jane got married I walked her down the aisle. That was very special. Then when Robbie and I got married, Warren was my best man. As brother and sister, we were very close.
When Mother had her stroke, Robbie and I, and AJ and Warren, decided to fulfill Mother’s wish to stay in her home. That was a lot easier for Robbie and I since Mom was here in Frederick. AJ and Warren had to close up their house in Nantucket and come to Frederick for 6-8 weeks at a time. They did that for ten years.
Anna Jane set the example for sisters, well, with one caveat, except when she was young. (:-) When we were together, we could even discuss politics, and respect each other’s views, even though those views were totally different. Anna Jane was not only a great sister, she was a really good person.
May 31, 2020
Dean and AJ's childhood home, where Dean and Robbie still live.