I don't have any siblings. But I do have Lauren and Leah. My grandfather and their Granny Shirley were siblings, therefore we are third cousins. (We think, though none of us is terribly adept at genealogy.) When I was very young and my dad and I would go for walks around Granny's farm, looking for indians and arrowheads they might have left behind, my parent's dog Martha would often join us. When she would wander off I would yell out her name repeatedly. My dad would always say, "Shhh, don't yell so loud, Martha up the hill will think you are yelling at her." I had no idea who Martha was, but I always secretly hoped she would come down off the hill and pop out of the bushes wondering why someone had called her name. I did finally get to meet Martha, who, as it turns out, is Lauren and Leah's mother.

The first time I met this Martha and her daughter Lauren (Leah must have stayed home, or maybe she wasn't around yet) they came to visit one evening while I was expressing my extremely precocious (not really) artistic abilities on a moderate sized green chalk board that slid out from behind the television stand and blocked the door to the kitchen when in use. I remember Lauren marched into the living room and immediately intimidated me even though I was five years her elder. She had sparkly blue studs in each of her pierced ears and of those I was extremely jealous. My mom had not yet allowed me to visit the Piercing Pagoda to get mine done, though I think after meeting Lauren I used her to back my argument that I should be allowed to have pierced ears as well. While Granny and Martha chatted, Lauren and I drew on the chalk board, though not before she erased everything that had previously been scratched on there with pastel colored chalk. This was presumably due to her expert eye when it came to chalk drawing, and the fact that my doodles were probably not as amazing as I had previously believed.

Having a friend across the street who was of similar age was extremely exciting to me. Until I met Lauren, I had spent most of my time with Granny or alone reading books, or escaping outside to play with the cats during the dreaded "Stories" on CBS. Though I could see their house from Granny's porch when the leaves were gone in the winter, Lauren and Leah's driveway sat a ways back up Rugby Road, which meant I could not visit their house unless I found some way closer to where the crow flies.

But lo! Directly across the street from my Granny's driveway and Wayne and Lucy's driveway sat Blair and Katherine's house. Lauren introduced me to the idea that it was alright to visit Blair and Katherine's house anytime I wanted, and their house by the way, had a path mowed in the tall grass behind it leading to Lauren's house. When my dad was young he would also go visit Katherine, and as he tells it, she taught him how strum the first few chords he learned on the guitar. So, I guess a lot of my dad's success in guitars began with her, so we all should feel fortunate she was such a sweet lady, allowing neighborhood kids to come visit her from when my dad was young up until she passed away several years ago.

I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from Katherine, such as how to make peanut butter fudge, how to play croquet, that blueberries picked from a bush in the backyard taste the best when added to a bowl of milk and sugar, and that The Wonder Years is quite possibly the best show ever to air on television. Blair and Katherine had satellite TV, whereas no one else I knew in the community had more than a fuzzy picture of such personalities like Bob Barker and Dan Rather. So, most afternoons, especially during the Stories, I would head down the driveway and across the street to watch The Wonder Years and American Gladiators while enjoying Rugby delicacies the likes of homemade fudge or fresh picked blueberries.

The thing about Rugby is that you kind of have to rely heavily upon yourself to create entertainment. There aren't any Discovery Zones or Chuck E Cheese restaurants up the holler adjacent to the cow pasture. Lauren, Leah, and I would oftentimes conjure entertainment by phoning our relatives and assuming alternate identities. I believe that is what they call prank calls in the big cities...Anyway, I remember one particular summer evening we lightly bounced on the huge black trampoline rimmed in blue padding that was positioned in the center of Lauren and Leah's yard and called Granny, and then Katherine. Taking turns, we spoke with each of the ladies, producing amazingly inaccurate British accents and offering each woman a well paid position as a seamstress employed by the Buckingham Palace. The Queen of England had specifically requested their presence in her newly formed sewing circle. Both Granny and Katherine politely declined, but not before humoring me and Lauren, allowing us to verify to ourselves that we were top notch actresses at such young ages.

Last year, during a walk that I would love to share with you in more detail later, Lauren, Leah, Harper, and I all went for a long walk on Granny's land. That day reminded us of our younger days when we used to scamper over the same hills spying on the cows, or searching for treasures hidden deep within the brush. One particular time we were exploring the hilly pasture next to Granny's house and the bull who resided there seemed to become agitated due our invasion of his space; he snorted and pawed vigorously at the ground.  Naturally we ran for our lives. Poor Leah ended up getting a face full of grass before tripping out of the lot after Lauren and I hopped effortlessly over the low electric fence. I am going to go ahead and credit that experience, and note my involvement, for making Leah the awesome runner she is nowadays.

The experiences I shared with these girls are priceless memories that I am so proud to possess. I think growing up in Rugby has afforded us a unique opportunity to experience a simple existence that focuses on relationships and the love of family. I love so much that Leah and I still take walks in the woods and continue exploring the countryside and I know Lauren would do anything I ever asked of her. This entry doesn't come close to fully describing the awesome times we have shared over the years, so get ready for further entries I guess. I chose only these two girls to stand with me at my wedding because they know and accept all of me and I am closer to them than anyone else I know. I am so lucky to have grown up with them both and am able to call them my sisters.

Rhododendron Gap, Grayson Highlands State Park