Monday, February 28, 2011

Catherine Joy Olson

When our parents told us they were going to have another baby, Mim and I were immediately excited.  We instantly KNEW it would be a girl and just as immediately started fighting over what her name would be.  I imagined it should be "Samantha" because I wanted my new little sister to look like the "Samantha" American Girl doll.
What I dreamed Cat
would look like.

Me (7) and Fat Baby Cat
Meeting her for the first time at the hospital was thrilling and terrifying. I was worried I would drop her because she was so teeny.  I was 7 and in 2nd grade. We brought her home and Mim and I would sneak into the room to look at her when she was asleep. My mom brought her into my class so she could be my "Show and Tell".  While I was presenting her she had a poop explosion and made the room stink.  My classmates thought it was gross and hilarious. Having a baby sister was so much fun.

Our family went camping every summer at Chapman Dam State Park in PA. It was always a highlight.  When Catherine was about 1 year old she was toddling around the fire pit in the early morning. She had a bucket and accidentally dropped it into the ash. When she reached for it she tumbled into the pit. When she dug her little baby arm into the ash to push herself up, she was burned by the hot firewood on the bottom. I'll never forget the site of her arm and the skin that flaked off from the heat. My parents panicked and rushed to the hospital.  She was OK but it was a really scary time for our family and she still has a scar the length of her lower arm. I think it adds character and I believe some of her friends used to call it "The Scar", which I'm not sure she necessarily liked but I thought it was sort of cool. 

Catherine has always been a free spirit. It's what I admire about her most. She likes what she likes. I probably teased her too much about it when she was younger. Even though it was hard sometimes for her growing up in a place where individuality is often considered too intimidating, she's held onto her unique perspective. This is what makes her the beautiful artist she is today.

Back when Beanie Babies were all the rage, Catherine had two that were her favorites. Wormie Lippy, the inchworm, and Wingflap, a fake Beanie Baby that was a bunny with wings. She renamed them herself and they were her constant companions until a crazy beanie baby thief stole them from our back yard. Remember how psycho people were about the estimated future value of those things? On Ebay, a pristine version of Wormie Lippy is worth maybe $5. The only people who made money off of that fad was the Ty company.
Wormie Lippy

Her favorite movie that she watched almost everyday was "Jack", commonly known as the "Nightmare Before Christmas". My mom thought it was a little strange that such a cute little blond girl loved such a goth movie, but she always let her watch it. 
Cat's childhood hero, Jack.

Her favorite pastime was playing outside in the dirt. She would make "worm homes" (balls of mud with a dead worm shoved in the middle). She also liked to string her stuffed animals up in the apple tree with jump ropes. My dad always thought it looked a bit like the gallows. Oh, and she loved frogs and toads, which you'll remember are the bane of my existence. 

I am 8 years ahead of Cat in school and I left home for college when she was just 10 years old. Leaving her was hard because she was my baby sister and I knew I wouldn't see the same small person again.  Sometimes, I've been too over protective as an older sister, but she knows it's just because I love her so much. My grandpa Harold died the summer before my senior year of high school and his death struck me twice as hard because he and Catherine were best friends. I couldn't bare thinking about her life without him in it. These are the types of moments that shape us as people though, and I know that she needed to experience struggle just like me in order to become a full person. 
Cat (8) with her infamous
underwater camera.

She did, of course, grow up. I remember seeing her for the first time since Christmas when my fam came to bring me home for the summer after my Freshman year. The pretty little pre-teen she had become was almost unrecognizable from the cute mud lover she was before. 

This phase of her life was full of boyfriends, girl drama, and multiple trips to the principle's office because of inappropriate school outfits. Our family always thought that was bullshit because she always looked great and NOT inappropriate. This is also when she started to write intensely.

She has filled up dozens of journals. I've never read any of them but I know she was writing poems and making drawings. She's been dedicated to her writing for most of her life. And she is great at it. Her poems are so heartbreaking and dark. It's a relatable outlook but not a comfortable one and that's what makes it so valuable. She started a blog last year and I just love reading her work and looking at the pictures she finds to correspond with the poems. 

This is one my favorites:

Robbery of the Spotless Mind

I offered up my head
he took a look, he reached in
plucked out a flower,
set it in the glass beside his bed,
discovered its wilted petals,
and then named me friend,
but never spoke to me again.

She doesn't have a fear of emotional darkness and I think for a lot of people, myself included, it's hard to face that part of our lives in an honest way. I seem to always try to make everything better in my mind when sometimes, allowing ourselves to feel hurt is more beneficial. A lot of her sentiments are dead on when considering the female experience with love and heartbreak. Often we don't truthfully express our disappointment because we have been told we will look crazy and are to believe vulnerability is unappealing. Cat's art illustrates the beauty in raw, uninhibited feeling and makes an unapologetic case for truth. 

Cat and my parents at her high school graduation.

She brings so much life into our family. She is a freshman in college this year and lives at home with my parents while attending the community college in Jamestown. The three of them are this cool family unit that makes me feel sad to live so far away. Cat is also the reason our family has actual cats. She loves them and when she was 8 we rescued our first kitten, Luke. The two of them were like brother and sister and it was a huge blow to our family when he disappeared last year. We have two new cats now that bring a lot of joy into the house and Catherine loves them so much. 

Cat with one of the new kittens, Jasper.
My sisters mean the world to me. The relationships we have with each other are my most treasured. As we grow up, and become the people that we want to be, it can be easier to move away from sibling relationships and think of them simply as past pieces from our childhood. I'm lucky to have two strong women who want to have a real place in my life. We put the effort in to stay connected and it means a lot to me that they love me enough to relate to me even though we are three different individuals working on our own life goals and dreams. 

Catherine has inspired me to keep working on my writing and to grow as a creative expressionist.  I can't wait to see what she ends up doing with her talents. She has become such a beautiful compassionate woman and I'm so proud to have her as a sister.

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