For sheer delight, I'll take organdy. The summer before she died, my sister Sari gave me a copy of a picture she had unearthed when cleaning out her den. It shows our mother, Eileen, and her younger (her only) sister, Mary Elizabeth, known to us as "Lil."
In this photo, which I'd never seen before, Eileen and Lil seem to be in their early 20s, so the picture must have been taken around 1925. The background is an old brick building whose barred windows make it look like (but surely it wasn't?) a small-town jail.
Eileen is, of course, the taller one. Did you ever see the New Yorker cartoon of two little old ladies on a park bench, wearing overcoats and babushkas, and one says to the other, "Are you the smart one and I'm the pretty one, or is it the other way around?" According to family legend, Lil was both the smart one and the pretty one. Eileen was tall and gawky, a galumphing galoot, to her mother.
This picture could have been taken yesterday, so fashionable are the two dresses. Eileen's is the stand-out, and I'm sure she made it herself. From the low waist hangs a white organdy skirt of multiple layers. The sleeveless black top might be heavy silk. But here's my mother's talent for you: the skirt has a slanted hemline, longer on the left side than on the right. The angle of this slant is exactly echoed in the slant at the lowered waist where the skirt attaches to the bodice. And the same slantthe same angle exactlyis echoed again in the neckline of the black top. It's a masterpiece of dressmaking. NOW who is the brilliant one, the beautiful one, the sister to be watched?
I saw two sisters this morning, and it made me cry. I was crossing
Sari and I looked alike and yet totally different from one another. It's all in the angles. But there was never any denying that we were sisters. I could answer the door at her house and her acquaintances would step back in surprise. Was this their Sara or not? (On the telephone, no one could tell us apartnor distinguish us from our sister Mary Eileen.)
I've left Mary out of all these musings, haven't I? Mary and I are very similar in temperament (two introverts to counter Sari's exuberance). But each of us was closer to Sari than we were to each other.
That's changing now, simply because Sari is not here any longer. But no matter how close Mary and I become, no matter how much we love each other, no one will ever confuse one of us for the other: we look nothing alike. Mary is a throwback to our Irish ancestry: dark hair, pale complexion, and brilliant blue eyes. The rest of us look like the English/Irish/Scottish mongrels that we are.
Now where did I start? Let's end up with sisters: "Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters . . ."
Sisters are a sheer delight. Like crisp white organdy.