March 12, 2008

"The sister I never had"

From Stacy:

Debbie was the sister I never had.

We first met as middle school cheerleaders for the A. C. Reynolds Rockets. Debbie was a year older than I and had Jay Beachboard wrapped around her finger. I thought she was magical. In high school, we cheered together again and bonded over camp and The Jackson Victory Tour. We told everyone a white sequined hand had waved to us from a limo window and we just knew it was Michael.

We cruised around town in her yellow MG convertible, she always wanting the top down, and I always wanting it up. We thought we were cool. Debbie introduced us as Jessica and Alexis to many a young man on Patton Avenue and at Mr. Gatti's Pizza in Hendersonville. We were always cousins from someplace else, New York City, Charlotte, Charleston, Richmond, New Orleans ... It was funny to listen to her spin the tale and try to keep a straight face while talking to these new strangers.

Debbie and I loved to "wrastle" and "psyche" people. We started a baking company called The Cookie Crumble Company (3 Cs for short) and sold a dozen cookies for a dollar. We'd stay up all night making cookies and fall asleep on the kitchen floor.

Debbie inspired me. She brought me out of my shell. Debbie was adventurous and exciting. She encouraged me to be more, do more, and live more. She was the wind beneath my wings. With her, my shyness seemed to evaporate. Any time spent with Debbie was bound to be full of questions, laughter, more questions, and meeting people. She dove into everything that interested her and embraced things so completely. She unconditionally loved
those she touched.

My freshman year at Chapel Hill, we shared a dorm room in Alexander. We didn't really like our bunk beds, so like many dorm students, we decided to build a loft. We measured, designed, and hammered. We were so excited to have a sturdy place to lay our heads and some room underneath to entertain. We climbed up into our loft that first night and giggled and laughed because we realized we hadn't accounted for the thickness of our mattresses.

Debbie said, "My nose can almost touch the ceiling," and I said, "My boobs can almost touch the ceiling," and we laughed some more. On graduation day, she called me and said, "Let's go naked under our Carolina blue caps and gowns. Let's just wear our cowboy boots!"

Don't worry Ray and Sue, I still can't seem to find those pictures...

Life took us to separate parts of the world and on different adventures, but Debbie always managed to find me, or I her. We met in Warsaw, Orlando, San Francisco, Toronto, and Asheville. When I lived in Michigan, she came to meet my first grade students in Detroit. The kids adored her. She explained the different parts of her camera and the process of developing film. I watched as she asked questions of each precious child, and snapped a picture at just the right moment to capture the beauty and personality of each one. For the rest of the year, the kids asked me when Miss Debbie was coming back to take more pictures of them. They thought she was their personal photographer, and that's how Debbie made you feel, like you were the only person there.

The last time I got to spend some time with Debbie was this past year, when she brought Frankie Ray to Raleigh to visit my chaotically organized family for a few days. We laughed over the possibility of switching lives every couple of weeks so we could understand and enjoy what we were experiencing. I wanted to travel to exotic locations to photograph and meet famous people and she wanted to see what having 3 kids with one on the way felt like. We had a blast, drinking coffee on my porch swing, watching all the kids play and getting into a pillow fight, discussing life and its complexities, and sipping red wine well into the morning hours.

Debbie was the sister I never had. I will always think of her when I bake chocolate chip cookies, look at the small sliver of a silver moon hanging in the night sky, or see an eagle soaring high above looking for the perfect place to land.

—Stacy Andrew Arch

No comments: