41: Picker Sisters

41: Picker Sisters

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Picker Sisters

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.

~Aristotle

We started out as nurses at the same hospital, although never the same unit. The night shift has a way of unifying NICU and gerontology nurses just by virtue of being fellow night stalkers. Later, we found ourselves on the same bowling league, although not on the same team. Mutual pregnancies and raising children solidified our bond. Over our thirty years of friendship we have seen and lived it all while dealing with chronic diseases — mine, multiple sclerosis, and hers, systemic lupus erythematosus. We supported each other through wheelchairs, crutches, and hospitalizations with teasing and laughter. But it was our mutual love of picking — finding funky, eclectic, unusual, artsy fartsy beauty in objects that most cannot envision as anything other than mundane — that made us related.

We are picker sisters. And we dubbed ourselves this long before the History Channel embraced the notion.

Usually, Marion’s style is decidedly different than mine. When she taught me the fine art of jewelry making with Swarovski crystals, her style was big and bold, mine much more understated. Yet we appreciate each other’s “eye,” or lack thereof, with a keen sense of humor.

After the kids had grown, our families seldom had the opportunity to spend time together. Yet, barring exacerbations of our illnesses or other calamities, Marion and I made an effort to meet over coffee once a month and then visit one or two haunts to pick over the goods.

“Oh, look at this!” I said one day at a local thrift shop, while holding up an old wooden perpetual calendar.

“You have one,” she replied wryly.

“It would look good on my new porch,” I said, ignoring her.

“This would look good on my new porch,” she said picking up a gaudy wicker basket filled with faded dusty plastic flowers.

“You don’t have a new porch,” I said.

“Exactly my point,” Marion said. “Now back away from the calendar.”

Instead, the calendar went into my cart.

Marion found a limited edition Barbie in impeccable shape. She slipped it into her cart, hoping I didn’t see. But I did see it and so began my tale of finding the perfect limited edition Ballerina Barbie for a ten spot, worth triple digits. I gave it to my two-year-old granddaughter, who promptly dunked it in a bowl of salsa at a Mexican restaurant.

Marion grunted. She had heard the Barbie story many, many times.

I found a storage box in the shape of a book. “Oh look! War and Peace! It will go great on my bookshelf.”

“You have three of those,” Marion reminded me.

“But I don’t have War and Peace,” I said, while placing it in a cart.

“What do you do — hide money in those?”

“Its function will be determined,” I said defensively. “It has yet to speak to me.”

Down another aisle, Marion picked up an antique rose patterned jacket with brass buttons. “This baby is saying, ‘rescue me, Mommy.’ ” And it went into her cart.

And then I saw it, hanging on a distant wall. Marion looked up and spied it too. “On your mark, get set…” she began. But I had already taken off with my cart, at record speed, despite my gimpy legs.

I beat her to the wall and carefully retrieved the black, white, and red purse. I gently ran my hand over the leather pattern. The sexy figure on the bag looked back at me with big eyes and a familiar pout. It was a gently used, vintage handbag that I had researched many times online, but just couldn’t justify the money spent. This, on the other hand, was priced just fine.

“Let me have it,” Marion begged.

“Finders keepers, losers weepers,” I replied.

“I’ll give you my Betty Boop bedroom slippers if you give her to me now.”

“Your feet are bigger than mine,” I said, placing the leather softly next to my cheek. “The lady belongs to me.”

A third shopper cleared her throat. It was apparent that we were being watched.

“Don’t mind us,” I said, with a smile. “We have no life.”

Our observer tilted her head. “Quite the contrary,” she said. “I had a friendship like yours once. It was sad when she moved away. What you two have is quite the life.”

I looked at my longtime friend — this sister from another mother — and we simultaneously broke into infectious grins.

Indeed. We have had a wonderful life.

~Diana M. Amadeo

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