Never ask someone whose childhood nickname was Miss Prissy to go on a hiking trip with you. It never ends well.
My sister had never been the outdoorsy type, not even when we were kids. My favorite place to be was up a tree or wading in a creek. Hers was indoors in a make-believe classroom, where she was always the teacher, enabling her to boss the rest of us around.
When she was four and I was two years old, our parents built us a sandbox and filled it with pristine, white sand. I experienced it to the fullest. I wallowed in it, smelled it, tasted it, massaged it into my scalp and packed it into my nose. My sister Susie stood in the middle of the sandbox and cried because the sand stuck to her hands and made her outfit dirty.
When she asked to go along on a weekend trip with my hiking club, I reluctantly agreed. I reminded her of her reputation as a bossy neat-freak, but she insisted that she had changed..
I decided to give my sister the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she HAD changed. Maybe I could introduce her to the wonders of nature and make a hiker out of her.
The day before we were to leave, Susie called me to discuss her travel wardrobe, which she packed into a large steamer trunk; this in spite of the fact that we were to be gone only two days.
She said, “If I take my navy jogging suit, I’ll have to take my matching nautical earrings. But they’re trimmed in silver, which won’t match my the gold trim on my beige handbag. Also, I just had my nails done for the trip in a shade called Peachy Perfection. Do you think it will clash with my lipstick, which is in the Rosey Rendezvous palette?”
“Susie,” I said through gritted teeth, “This will be a rugged hike in the backwoods. Not one of the experienced hikers is taking makeup or jewelry. What does that tell you?”
“It tells me that I’ll be the prettiest one there!” she answered cheerfully.
“Who are you trying to impress?” I asked with a sigh of frustration. “The squirrels? The other sweaty hikers? The fishermen, who smell like bait?”
I thought I had made my point until we got ready for bed on the first night at the cabin. I got into my worn flannel nightgown and my husband’s wool hunting socks. Susie swept dramatically out of the bathroom in a billowing, black-and-gold floral negligee, matching robe and mohair trimmed slippers.
“Who are you supposed to be?” I asked wryly. “Nineteen – forties movie star Gloria Swanson?”
The next morning we hiked to the top of an 80-foot tall waterfall. We paused to gaze in silence at the scenic grandeur of it. It was inspiring.
“Just look at that!” I said to Susie. “Isn’t it amazing?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said. “Let’s go. The mist is taking the curl out of my hair and spotting my espadrilles. Didn’t we pass an outlet mall on the way here? Can you drop me off there? If we hurry we can get there before it closes.”
Just one nudge, I thought as I eyed her stance at the edge of the precipice, and the body won’t wash up until the rainy season.
Back at the hotel, she whined, “Eeyew, what is this dampness under my armpits?”
“Look, Susie, isn’t that one of your earrings in the back corner of your steamer trunk?” I asked.
“Where?” she answered as she leaned into the cavernous trunk.
Bump! Slam! Click. I sent her home via Amtrak.