LESLIE CRISS: Baby’s arrival 49 years ago still good gift

By LESLIE CRISS / NEMS Daily Journal

“All kinds of weather, we stick together – the same in the rain or sun.
Two diff’rent faces, but in tight places we think and we act as one.”
– Irving Berlin, “Sisters”
from “White Christmas”

Forty-nine years ago this very day, the three-member Criss family waited expectantly for the coming of a fourth.
My mother labored; my father may have paced.
I did what I imagine any 4-year-old anticipating a great life change might do: I fretted the advent of a sibling.
Despite my apprehension, Ann Elizabeth Criss arrived anyway. And was warmly welcomed into a world that had, for four full years, been all mine.
Mom and Dad, once at my beck and call, now divided their attention by two.
Grandparents, who thought I’d hung the moon and stars, now gazed at something new in their galaxy.
And three young uncles, brothers of my father, who’d taken me places and brought me gifts galore, now had a new apple in their eyes.
I’m sure I stewed for a spell, as any spoiled child might, and looked with disdain upon this interloper.
But soon I softened toward this sister of mine. I know this because of a fading photograph that shows a proud big sister holding a baby sister close.
I know this because for most of her 49 years on earth, she’s been my confidante, my collaborator, my co-conspirator, my comrade.
Our adventures together have been many, and run the gamut from heartbreaking to heart warming.
We’ve loved and lost both pets and people.
We’ve feared and fought childhood bullies, and learned early on to hate injustices, great and small.
We’ve understood each other’s doubts and questions, and supported each other’s search for truth.
We’ve applauded each other’s accomplishments, encouraged each other’s dreams and helped each other up after a disappointment or two.
We’ve shared a large love of good books, music and movies. We’ve appreciated art, though neither of us inherited our mother’s tendency toward talent.
We’ve enjoyed good food, and cooked side by side in a cubicle of a kitchen during our two-year restaurant venture a baker’s dozen of years ago.
We’ve stayed close because that’s what sisters do. Besides, I owe her for one of the greatest gifts ever: my niece.
Several decades ago, my family indulged me when I decided to move west. Mom, Dad and Beth helped me pack my car and then followed me to Los Angeles to help me get settled.
Our first night in LA, we had dinner with the family of our mom’s cousin.
My sister and I, shy girls both, took our plates over to a table where sat the cousin’s teenage daughter and a friend. I was content to eat in silence. Not so, my sister.
“Hi. I’m Beth and this is my sister, Leslie,” she told the pair, who stared at us as if we’d each sprouted two heads.
“What did you say?” one of the girls asked.
My sister repeated the introduction.
“Oh,” said one of the girls, looking ever so relieved. “I thought you said you were Faith and this was your sister, Blessed.”
It remains one of our favorite together stories.
And 49 years later, I realize I needn’t have fretted her arrival.
It brought me a best friend.
It brought me Faith.

Contact Leslie Criss at leslie.criss@djournal.com or (662) 231-5600.

Click video to hear audio