A Broken Strand

August 30, 2012


Mama is downstairs, on hands and knees, scrubbing floors. My sister and I are banished to the upper level of the house–out of her way, out of her thoughts, out of the bounds of her supervision.

My sister is bored. She throws her copy of The Hobbit across the room in frustration. “I don’t get this book. It’s weird.”

I look up briefly from my copy of Encyclopedia Brown and then resume reading. My sister + bored = bad news. Better to shut up and read.

“Come on, let’s go,” my sister says, pushing herself off the bed.

“Go where?” I say, reluctant to give up my place in the chapter.

She stalks over, snatches Encyclopedia Brown out of my mitts, dog ears the corner, and shuts it. “Come on.”

I follow her into the hall but stop when I realize where she is headed: Mama’s room. We are not allowed in Mama’s room without supervision, which is my sister’s fault. Before I was born, my sister cruised into Mama’s room, became intoxicated with the array of perfumes on the dressing table, and then poured an entire bottle of Chanel #5 on Mama’s bedspread. Mama was not amused.

It’s apparent that years of banishment haven’t dimmed my sister’s ardor for perfume; she heads straight for the dressing table and uncorks a bottle of Joy, inhaling deeply. “Hm. Not my style.” She corks it, picks up another.

I hang nervously in the doorway, looking over my shoulder, even though I know Mama is busy downstairs.

“Get in here, weirdo,” she hisses, and I hustle in, closing the door halfway behind me.

“What do you think of this?” she asks, holding out a sprayed wrist.

I inhale so much lilac scent that I think I can taste it. “Ugh,” I say, recoiling.

“Hmph.”  She abandons the perfume and riffles through Mama’s underwear drawer. Nothing of interest. She scans the room and her gaze lands on pay dirt. Mama’s jewelry box.

“Umm, I don’t think…” I say, but she cuts me off with a harsh movement of her hand and a fish eye.

She opens the box and peers in. “Whoa.”

Despite myself, I scoot in closer to look.

My sister picks up a shiny gold ring, tries it on. Of course, it’s too loose, but she twists it around, admiring it. The bracelets are also too big, but that doesn’t keep her from trying them on anyways, shoving them as far up her arm as they can go.

On to necklaces. My sister zeroes in on a fat strand of pearls. She tries to work the clasp, but it won’t unhinge. Instead, she puts the pearls on top of her head, like a corona.

“Look, I’m the Queen of the May,” she says, twirling around the room. The pearls threaten to fall off as she moves, so she clasps them tightly to her head and with that…snap. Pearls fly everywhere–under beds, beneath dressers. I watch in horror as a few pearls scatter and tumble down the heating vent at the other end of the room. We. Are. Dead.

Even my brazen sister pales at the sight. She takes a few deep breaths and her eyes ricochet around the room. Then she turns to me and puts her hands firmly on my shoulders.

“Okay. Listen. You are little and little kids are a lot cuter, so you won’t get into as much trouble as me. Mama probably won’t even  spank you, but I’ll be dead.  So you need to tell Mama that you broke the pearls, okay? If you don’t, she’s really gonna hurt me. Bad.”

I look into her eerie eyes, a mixture of brown and green and yellow flecks. Cat eyes. But she’s right serious, so I sigh and nod my assent.

I sneak downstairs, into the parlor, and snag several fashion magazines from a paper rack. Cautiously, I hustle upstairs to my room, closing the door behind me. I pull down my Toughskins jeans, stuff magazines into the backside, and zip. I open a drawer and pull out another pair of Toughskins. I slide these over the ones I’m wearing, sucking in my breath to fasten them. No matter what my sister says, I don’t think I’m cute enough to escape this little caper unscathed.

And I’m right. Head bowed, I tell Mama what I’ve done. She runs upstairs, gasps at the sight of her pearls, strewn across floors and into corners. She orders me to my room and strides swiftly behind me. The hand of justice comes down with force and anguish. Luckily, I don’t feel a dang thing.

“Ah!” Mama cries out, holding her hand up for scrutiny. I peer out of the corner of my eye. Hoo-boy. Her hand is scarlet, already beginning to swell. She looks down at my padded bottom and knows she’s been had.

She lowers herself onto the floor, hand throbbing, and begins to laugh and cry at the same time. Mama, bless her. She’s mad as Hell but can’t deny ingenuity when she sees it. Through tears, she hugs me. I remove the magazines from my britches and the extra layer of Toughskins. Still, I lay low the rest of the day, lest she change her mind.


Nine years later, my sister safely ensconced at college, I tell Mama the truth about the pearls. We’re chopping vegetables for pasta primavera, and I just tell her.

“What?” she says, horrified. “You took the blame for that? Dear God, why did you do such a thing?”

I shrug, cutting broccoli into carefully uniform flowerets. “She told me to.”

Mama leans into the countertop and begins to laugh. “And now you tell me.”

I laugh, too. “Yeah. I guess I thought it was time.”

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Tiffany August 30, 2012 at 6:24 am

I love your stories. Love, love, love.


emily August 30, 2012 at 7:20 am

Sisters, right? I’ve got two older ones and an older brother, and I’m not the baby of the family. DO you know who got pinned for EVERYTHING?!


dawn August 30, 2012 at 9:53 am

My take-away (though it was all riveting, love to read here!!) was the part where in the safety of your sister’s absence, you, seemingly randomly, shared the ‘real’ story. My 11 month younger sister and I have had more laughs in our adult years telling our parents our own truths!

See any great shows at Red Rocks this summer?


TKW August 30, 2012 at 10:36 am


Sadly, I haven’t made it up to the Rocks once this summer! Shameful! The only show I was really tempted to see was My Morning Jacket. Maybe next summer I’ll do better?


Deirdre August 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

Found my way here via Kludgy Mom- I love the title of your blog! And that salad below looks delish!

If you’d like, please join our Photo Friday blog-link-up tomorrow. Any of your favorite photos are welcome- even if they’re in a post.



TKW August 30, 2012 at 10:37 am


Hi! Thanks for stopping by! I’ll definitely stop by your blog tomorrow!


Jamie August 30, 2012 at 10:35 am

A sister story!! Always my favorite. You were so kind to her, I don’t know how you did it.


TKW August 30, 2012 at 10:37 am


I was a spineless idiot!


Katybeth August 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I would have let my eyes mist over when I told my mom years later and mumbled I thought you would “Know.” I’m not above torturing my sweet mom a little! I got chocolate chips cookies in the mail today!
You were a good sister and the pay back is raising two sister minxes that genuinely love and have fun with one another.


TKW August 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm


I’m hoping the conviviality will last…


Alexandra August 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Addicted to your storytelling skills.

You haz them like mad.

Great read. Thank you for the precious share.


Jennifer August 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Man, your sister was (is) a piece of work.


TKW August 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm


Indeed. Still is.


Contemporary Troubadour August 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm

You must have been impressively convincing to Mama in your confession! I’m not sure I could have pulled it off.


TKW August 30, 2012 at 3:33 pm


Maybe that’s why I was a drama minor in college? Subterfuge is excellent training.


BigLittleWolf August 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Wow. All I can say is – wow.

For so many reasons.

(Good job on the magazines. Better job for your mom laughing!)


suzicate August 30, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Another beautifully told tale of childhood. Amazing how we were more afraid of the wrath of our sister than our parents and took the blame for the things they did! Too bad we weren’t all smart enough to think of padding our butts!


idiosyncratic eye August 31, 2012 at 3:08 am

I love the magazine idea! You were a clever child. :)


Jenna August 31, 2012 at 8:59 am

I love how your mama laughed and cried when she saw your protective devices. And I’m glad you ‘fessed up all these years later to your innocence.


Cathy August 31, 2012 at 11:52 am

This totally reminds me of me and my sister and what I see my older two boys doing as well. My sister and I would fight like crazy but if one of us knew we were in trouble with the parents, we were as thick as thieves in our resolve to find out the best way out. I see my older son taking advantage of my younger and it stirs the ire in me (I am the younger one as well so it pushes my buttons big time!) Great story – I love your stories.


TKW September 1, 2012 at 8:12 am


I’m just like you–I completely flip out when I see Miss D. take advantage of M. And I mean FLIP.


ayala August 31, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I love this! A great write :) That was genius of you!


Dawn September 1, 2012 at 2:44 am

Love/hate relationships are tough. Especially between sisters. I give you points for having a sense of humor about the whole thing. Great story.


Tina September 2, 2012 at 10:32 am

Hey KW,
I love your stories~ I always feel as though I’m right in the middle of them.
I remember my little brother putting on every pair of underwear he had in fear of a spanking.
Are you still pissed at your sister? ;)


TKW September 3, 2012 at 7:17 am

Heck, that little escapade was nothing! She did far worse, that rascal.


Naptimewriting September 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm

My darling Kitchy,
I’m a rule follower, too. And reading the first act of this, I didn’t like your sister. She made me anxious.
I’m a sister, and reading the second act of this, I really dislike your sister. She’s horrible and infuriating.
I’m a mom, and reading the third act, I want to hang out with you and Mama. You’re both my kind of people.


TKW September 3, 2012 at 7:18 am

Obviously, you have great taste when it comes to people. :) xoxo


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes September 3, 2012 at 7:01 am

Oh poor you! And the pearls? Was the necklace repairable or broken beyond … eh.. repair.


TKW September 3, 2012 at 7:18 am

Alas, the pearls were toast. I think we had enough left for a bracelet.


Kristen @ Motherese September 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

Oh, I love this. Your story tells so much about you and about your sister and, of course, about Mama. The details are pitch perfect. I have an almost identical story from my past, but mine involved a bottle of Coke instead of a strand of pearls. (Stickier, but less pricey.)

Such a pleasure to be back here after a summer away from the Interwebs.

Love you, girl. xo


TKW September 5, 2012 at 10:52 am


I want the story!!! Love you, too.


Galit Breen September 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

This is so wonderfully written! I love the details, the dialogue, the ingenuity, and mostly the way it all came down to laughing together.

Such a wonderful post, girl!


TKW September 5, 2012 at 10:54 am


Mama always said, “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.” I guess it’s true in this case, eh?


Barbara September 5, 2012 at 4:32 am

My son always made his younger brother take the blame for everything. I kind of knew and usually sent them both to their rooms….but it was still unkind.
He has since apologized to his brother.


TKW September 5, 2012 at 10:53 am


Wow, an apology from a sibling? That is quite mature–and wonderful.


elizabeth September 5, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Your ingenuity as a child is impressive. Are you sure you’re not an engineer or a scientist? :D


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri September 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm

You have mad story skills Kitch. The details and the emotions are palpable. Inspires me to be a better writer. Thanks Kitch!


Heather September 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

This took me back to the days of playing dress-up in my great-grandma’s bedroom – the one with the twin beds cuz’ my great grandparents wouldn’t dare sleep together! I once broke a shoe of my great grandma’s. I hid it from her, never told her about it. She’s gone now so I never will tell her about it. Glad you got to tell your mom. It does make a difference!


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