Godfrey laughed when a letter came, from his sister Alice, six years older than he. She showered me as a lad with her abuse he recalled, for a time she wore a badge on her hat that read, “Born this way, what is your excuse?”.
I disliked beets, and in this knowledge Alice gloated in mean glory, but tell me of your sister Fillipendula, Worzel? Beyond beets and given names I sense a story. Yes, also six years older than I, there was nothing Fillipendula, my sister feared to try. At Halloween she did not fear to knock at the local cat-ladies door. Laughed when chased by the vicious spaniel of old man Pettigrew. She snitched carrots from the garden of the neighbor who killed her husband. She weed outside, she hitched rides, things I would never do.
Fillipendula in snow storms did not wear scarf or hat, she did not fear the cooking of our step-mother, Mrs Gibberflat. She was not above switching the T.V. off to chat, about Puberty in the middle of our dad’s hockey game, she shrugged it off when teased about her unusual name.
Shades of your Alice in sheer temerity, but kind like you are, I told Godfrey. She left home when I was twelve, boldly volunteering in hot, dusty places that seemed from her letters so dangerous to me. At night I feigned sleep, but could hear through the wall, my parents and aunts talking low, full of worry.
She wrote me in gross detail of shooting rats at night in her room. She sent us parcels wrapped in cloth, sealed with wax, she learned to tend goats and camels, she always promised she would be home soon. Years passed, I promised her no rats, we kept her room clean and aired, and I cared for her Palamino mare.
When Fillipendula came home she jumped at the ringing of the phone and her nerves were a tad raw. Rarely did she speak of war, and never of the nasty things she saw. Sister dealt with the world by retreating with her pets to the riverside, and dreaming through the day. Fillipendula has roosters, her horses, cats and dogs, never turning down the unwanted, derelict or stray.
We built her a cabin, down by the estuary, folks wary of the number of roosters she had, kicked them out of every place she stayed. Refusing to relent, for a time Fillipendula lived in her tent. Never concerned with being called strange, she kept Guinea Fowl and Peacocks, all free to peck about her cabin door and range.
We could hear the dawn chorus miles away from her cabin where the river joined the sea, content in solitude lives Fillipendula, with her pets in reclusive harmony.
“Roosters, Godfrey sat back with a smile and a thought. While true their intentions are not always mannerly, or honorable to the wary hen, they need not deserve to always end up in pot pie or soup tin”.
“Do you recall the heavy rubbish, we had to haul, from the cafe’ back in Saskatchewan? In the bitter, winter dawn long ago, we paused in the blue stillness, listened for the morning train and distant, early rooster’s crow. (With your prod to remind me it was 20 below).
My sister, Fillipendula is now our local cat-lady, she munches carrots when I reach her by phone, every three years on my birthday. But how lovingly you tell of your sister, Worzel dear, said Godfrey, perhaps one day we shall meet. “I have told her of you yes, how you dislike the beet, and that in curiosity you looked up her odd name.
Fillipendula suits her, for she would not give up her roosters, Fillipendula as a name means “Meadowsweet”.