This trip came about because my sister and I like to travel together. We’ve gone on many trips and at the end of each we talk about the next. Somewhere along the way we began talking about Pamplona and the run. This was years ago – before cancer, before marriage, before The Kid – and maybe it would have been easy to ignore this trip now and never take it. Maybe it would have been the right thing, the safe thing to do to NOT go traipsing off to France, Italy and Spain for more than 2 weeks. Maybe when you are pushing 40 you shouldn’t gallivant down a cobblestone street in Spain with six bulls up your arse before you can say “THERE’S A BULL UP MY ARSE!”
Then again … why not?
This morning over breakfast The Hub told me how people reacted when he would tell them what I was doing, that I was in Europe and would be Running with the Bulls in Pamplona. You’re going to let her do that? They would say. I was making oatmeal when he said this. Upon hearing other people asked him if he was going to LET me do something I stopped stirring. I looked at him. And he said,
Oh, I know!
Those of you who know me well or even know me vaguely were probably not surprised to hear I wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona. It sort of fits my personality. I’m a bit of a risk taker, a bit of a thrill seeker. I value experiences. I’m aggressive about building memories. I call the shots.
It’s not surprising I would want to run. It’s not surprising I DID run. It’s not surprising The Hub was incredibly supportive from day one even though he wasn’t going on the trip and knew there was the potential for me to not come back. It’s not even surprising there were absolutely NO gorings on the day I ran – that would be because my mother was home in the states praying for “a safe run for everyone”. What IS surprising is that from the moment I mentioned it my sister was all in.
My sister and I are different. Which is a little like saying apples and bras are different.
My mother first had an inkling of this difference when I was about 3 seconds old. Already ready to voice my opinion, grab attention and have my say, I came out crying. No smack on the bottom needed. I entered the world mouth open, face red and skewed, letting everyone know what I thought of the whole ordeal. 2 1/2 years prior to this, Carrie, my sister, was born into the world organizing the birthing tools and calmly agreeing with every single word, thought and idea my mother had.
When my sister was old enough to eat solids, my mother began feeding her from a divided dish. This pleased my sister greatly. Since the touching of different food begins a nuclear holocaust. When I was old enough to eat solids I stuck potatoes in my ears and meat up my nose. As often as I could.
When cleaning up after play time my sister and my mother danced happily around the room putting each item in its designated space. This goes here. That goes there. Every prodigal toy returned. Every lost plaything found, baptized and reintroduced to the congregation. Then and only then was every thing right in the world, every thing is how it should be. Saved. When it came time for me to clean up after playtime my mother would take me out back and wash me off with the garden hose.
When Halloween rolled around each year, my sister would go trick or treating and then run home as fast as she could … not to eat the candy, but to sort it. First in large categories – chocolate, sweets, fruits and other. Then in subcategory – chocolate plain, chocolate with filling, chocolate covered in something else. And then into sub-sub-category – chocolate plain bite sized, chocolate plain regular sized. The m&m’s kept the poor child busy for hours.
I would come home with only a bag of apples and the few pieces of candy I couldn’t shove in my mouth between houses.
Throughout childhood, the differences continued to surface. In fact, they only grew as we did. There wasn’t a single shared teacher from our small high-school that didn’t say to one or both of us, Boy, you sure aren’t like your sister! Neither of us took it as an insult.
In college my sister went on a trip to Israel. She was going to be gone 4 weeks. She bought travel containers for her shampoo and conditioner. She measured how much shampoo and conditioner she would use in a 4 week period, added 20% - in case of unexpected humidity or foreign water composition - and then handed the bottles to me with clear instructions on how I was to fill the containers. These two can be conditioner and these two can be shampoo. Or this set can be shampoo and conditioner and this set can be another set of shampoo and conditioner. This, however, can never be shampoo and this can never be conditioner. Got it? I said yes and then proceeded to completely F it up. Not on purpose, but truthfully I didn’t understand … what was the big deal? If you knew which was which what difference could it possibly make what container it was in? So I put shampoo in some and conditioner in some and presented the completed project to my sister. Disaster. I thought you understood! She cried. Oh no! I said, I thought I did too! But I lied. I didn’t really understand from the beginning. When she got about 3 words into the “this goes into this” discussion I stopped listening. Eventually, even though I didn’t understand, I said I did. I did this so she would quit explaining it. I knew there would be consequences, but at the time it seemed like the better of two evils. And that was the moment I finally understood why perfectly innocent men confess to murder after interrogation because okay already I’ll agree to anything if you’ll please just STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.
My sister packs days prior to a trip.
My sister has her jewelry in an actual jewelry box.
My sister rotates her eye makeup every few months – just like you’re supposed to.
So you can understand why when I first mentioned running with the bulls I was a bit surprised when she went GaGa about it. I was so surprised, in fact, that I didn’t notice at first that she had agreed. I already had begun selling the idea. I began talking about how cool it was and how amazing it would be and how unique we would be for even GOING, let alone RUNNING! I do remember her asking,
Do I have to run?
And I said, NO! Of course not! And then she was back to being all in. But not once. NOT EVER ONCE did she say, Why do YOU have to run? That’s because for as much of a mystery my sister is to me, I am completely and utterly known by her. She gets it. And I love her for that. I adore her for never once questioning. For never even suggesting maybe I should sit this one out. For never saying ONE NEGATIVE THING about this whole idea. In fact, in all the time leading up to the trip, in all the discussions about where we would stay, in all the email exchanges and the links to articles about the event, in all the planning I only ever heard her say one slightly hesitant comment. Two years ago while looking at pictures of the festival and the throngs of people dressed in the traditional garb of white tops and white pants I heard her mutter under her breath,
great, I’ll probably be on my period.
And really, who could blame her for that?