Ponder this riddle:
I am a very special woman that you might know.
I have passion in my eyes and a mischievous glow.
I can pick up any instrument and play it like a pro.
My imagination is something I will never outgrow.
I’m tall and lean,
But don’t call me string bean!
But do call me Fliedermaus,
Or Gloria if she’s in the house.
You might find me just daydreaming for hours and hours,
Or plotting some plot with my thinking powers.
And when this thinking would get me in trouble,
I’d always know what to say on the double.
You can find me in ‘The Book Man’
Or hanging out with my theatre clan.
In my closet you’ll find many coats,
But its really shoes I love the most.
Do you have an idea yet?
If you must know.
It’s just me… Emily.
A riddle is quite appropriate, for Emily is quite a mystery herself. She is a force of nature, someone to be reckoned with.
My mother has said that raising Emily took more energy than the other three of us put together. Now Emily could take this as a slight or see that she is largely responsible for the extremely skilled mother that we have today. It is not necessarily that she was naughty all those years, but rather that she was excessively creative and energetic, which often lead to naughtiness.
As for myself I am incredibly thankful for the experiences that I have thanks to my second oldest sister. I played a part in many of her fantasies. Often the part of trusting innocence, like a lamb being led to slaughter or a princess taking her place in her kingdom. As a kid I was drawn to Emily and for good reason. There was never a dull or monotonous moment with my big sister. I am happy to have participated and look forward to the days that she can take my own children along with her on her journeys.
Imagine you are me. You are no older than 5 years in age. You enjoy your simple life and are highly trusting of those around you.
I have to set up the physical space to make sense of this tid bit. Our childhood house on Killarney drive had an open dining room, kitchen plan. It was separated from the living room by a wall that contained the kitchen from the living room, but exposed part of the dining room. We would use this area for many dramatic entrances throughout the years as we played out our games and created alternative worlds to enjoy.
Emily saw this particular set as a place to stage one of her sneakiest dramas, the Gloria drama. You see, she would walk behind the wall into the kitchen while Jeff and I were playing in the living room. She would change character from her normal self to Gloria, her evil twin. My 5 year old mind remembers her as totally different, as though she had morphed into something new… and sinister. She would treat me and Jeff terribly calling us names, ordering us around, and getting up to all sorts of nonsense. She was not the same person. We would be incredibly distraught by the time she would make her exit back through the kitchen again. However, this time she would emerge as the sweet and darling Emily ready to console us after undergoing such unjust and inhuman treatment. She would always say something along the lines of “Was Gloria here? What did she do to you now? Don’t worry you’ll be okay now.”
Pure genius I tell you.
Another notable performance from Emily during our childhood took place when Mom and Dad were out for the evening. We were in the family room downstairs with the legendary, funky old carpet that looked like a Persian rug. This room housed the TV, our old couches, the piano, the ironing board, the sewing machines, and a fireplace that we never used because something was wrong with it. I distinctly remember this taking place by the ironing board under one of those hanging lamps with a big pink shade. The lighting of course was dramatic.
Things were going on as usual. We were up to some nonsense probably enjoying onis (mac and cheese) and iced tea for dinner while watching an episode of Newhart or something since Mom and Dad were out for the evening. Suddenly Emily started acting strange. She looked all lethargic and started breathing funny. Jeff and I rushed to her side. She collapsed under the ironing board and “fainted.” I distinctly remember Jeff checking to see if she was breathing and telling me that she wasn’t. (Come to think of it maybe the stinker was in on it too!)
At this point I really honest to goodness thought that she was dead. Jeff and I were both crying and were incredibly upset at this point. I remember laying our heads down on her supposedly deceased body, like you see in the movies. Then all the sudden she jolted up with a large gasp of air. She had a far off look in her eyes. We asked her “Emme, Emme, what happened? Are you okay? Are you alive?” She caught her breath and managed to say “I went to heaven and God told me that I wasn’t ready to die yet. I’m too pure and young. I need to stay on earth.”
I believed this whole heartedly. I thought it was amazing that she got to go to heaven and see God and Jesus and all the Saints. Oh how I wanted to go to heaven and see those beautiful things just like my big sister. I wanted to be pure too.
However, these memories seem to have a way of sneaking back to you later on in life. I confirmed a few years later that this was indeed a scam, but at least it made me long for heaven even more.
One of the most wonderful times of the year is clearly Christmas. One of my favorite musical delights from the Christmas season is Amy Grant’s ‘Home for Christmas.’ The most epic song on that album is the instrumental recording of ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s desiring.’ It begins with beautiful classical guitar and builds into a stirring celtic arrangement. If there’s one thing that gets me up and dancing, its fiddles at their best. For many years in a row Emily used to choreograph a dance to this piece of music that went out of our traditional Scottish dance training. We would dance the night away waiting for Santa and the birth of Jesus. I remember spinning around and around giggling with joy in our Sunday best for what seemed like an eternity. It was Christmas in Killarney at its best.
Emily is also excessively talented musically. When she reached teenage-hood she would play piano and sing for hours and hours. She even penned a puppet opera once of which I was going to be the star. I still remember the reoccurring song that played throughout the story. Maybe the world will be delighted with this little ditty one day?
As we grew up it was evident that Emme had to cultivate these talents. After high school she left for Rosebud, Alberta where she attended theatre school for two years. The morning she left was probably the day that I cried most in my whole life. I was inconsolable. Alberta seemed a world away and I couldn’t imagine not seeing one of my siblings for a 4 month stretch. I remember waving goodbye to her from the driveway and watching the van turn away from the house. I knew life just wouldn’t be as fun or adventurous with Emily moved away. I was about to start high school in a few weeks and I needed her around to help me through it. But it was the way it was. I picked myself up and walked into the house in her newly vacated room, which was now mine. I cheered up a bit relishing in one of the perks of being the youngest. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad after all.
Emily left behind a little reminder of herself in our home. In Home Ec. class they made stuffed animals. She chose to made a mouse. We affectionately called it the Fliedermaus, the German word for bat, one of Emme’s nicknames for her ability to make jolting entrances much like bats. Her little mouse had a superhero cape that went from one outstretched arm to the other. Its perky ears rested on it head which had a severe tilt. It looked ready to pounce any second. We placed it on the highest part of the kitchen cupboards. It would sometimes take you by surprise if you forgot about it presence as you could feel its little sweet eyes looking at you. We would often look up at the little Fliedermaus and remark on how we missed our Emme. It was yet another remarkable creation that filled our lives with theatrics even while she was gone.
And this talent for the theatrical has only continued to blossom over the years. On a recent trip home Robbie and I were able to see a production of “Sabrina Fair” directed by none other then Emily Hamel. It was a delight. It was one of my favorite nights at the theatre. The casting, costumes, acting, and set were all a perfect bundle of classy storytelling. And my Emily had the final word in each of these decisions. It was truly a marvel to behold.
I’ve been thinking lately about the miracle it is that my family love each other the way we do. We’re all stubborn. We’re all very different. We have had very difficult times that my teenage heartcould see no way out of.
However, I think my parents did something more than right in raising us. You see, in spite of the hard and difficult times, deep inside we all feel the beckoning call back to one another. When it comes down to it, we can’t live without each other, because we know the value of what we have and who we are as children of Tom and Diane Hamel.
My case in point: Emily Diane Hamel.
You see I waited through my late teenage years for my family to make a pendulum swing back to the peace that we now have. What shook us was no one persons fault, but a disagreement of ideologies, personalities, and the messiness of life. In short, there was a deep divide in our family.
Its not worth hashing out as the past is the past, but it is worth mentioning. It is worth mentioning because it helped define each of us as we grew into the adults that we are now. For many uncomfortable years I know that the hardest thing for each of us: Mom, Dad, Jenny, Emme, Jeff, and myself was that we couldn’t be together in the all familiar and comfortable way that we had know for so long.
Like molasses slowly moving, things have changed and shifted.
And now I rejoice, for wounds have been healed, words have been spoken that needed to be spoken long ago and prayers recited for many years have been answered.
I return again to the blessed day I married Roberto to explain myself. Emily came out the day before the wedding from Chilliwack to Walnut Grove. We spent the greater part of that day together running errands and finishing off ‘To Do’s.” She had my back all day. She took such good care of me. We chatted about our current states in life and the excitement of the big day as we traipsed around Walnut Grove together.
It felt like for the first time in a long time that there were no barriers between us. It was the most unexpected blessing that I had all week. I could feel God smiling down on my family as we prepared for this most important day saying “Isn’t my timing always perfect Laura?”
And it is.
Emily, I can’t imagine my life without you. There is still never a dull or monotonous moment when I am around you. I am still drawn to you and will always be drawn to you for your beauty and your love of all things aesthetic.
I may be the conqueror of silly little things, but you are the conqueror of many great things.