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A Valentine to my sister

Barbara Guilford
Cheyenne, Wyo.

The Valentine I am looking at today is dated Feb. 14, 1991. The valentine was from my oldest sister, Carolyn. It tells me that I am a lovely, kind and compassionate woman and that there is a special place for me in God’s garden. Sweet words sent to sooth my heart – Happy Love Day – she continued knowing that sisters are different flowers in that garden. I want to write or talk to her to tell her how nice it was to grow up with someone to lean on and to count on and to share my memories and good news. But that is impossible – for she is gone now. So I will try to put down on paper what is in my heart.

According to Louisa May Alcott, helping one another is the religion of sisterhood. And help she did – sweet Carolyn enclosed four pages of copied news clippings expressing “Thoughts for today,” for me in that valentine. The yellowed folded papers include a valentine message from 1877.

If you will be my Valentine,

my charming little dear,

The sun can never help but shine

throughout the coming year.

If you will be my Valentine,

you’ll see in all your walks,

Fresh lemon drops on every twig

and peanuts on the stalks.

But if from you I never hear,

nor even get a line,

I’ll ask some other nicer girl

to be my Valentine.

It is said that sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic and challenging world and recently I heard that for troubled youth having a sister is the key to success.

Carolyn was the first to marry in our family and move out into the chaos. She married Harold Hilzer right after she graduated from high school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and they moved to Colorado Springs, Colo. I remember her bringing me a set of jacks as a gift on the first furlough. Later, they provided jobs for my mother and four other siblings each year on their farm east of Scottsbluff, Wyo. Harold helped us in many ways. He provided us with beef and raised and helped with chickens in the summer. They saw us through some pretty rough times even after they moved to a farm, the Gering sugar factory and another near Scottsbluff National Monument.

Farming was a tough act for my sister who was bright and vivacious. One of her biggest pleasures was shopping downtown on Saturday. I pushed her two beautiful girls, Lori and Leanne, while she visited with friends in stores. Her boys, Stan and Steve, were also dressed in matching suits sewn by my mother. She went through several phases utilizing her talents. I was usually her babysitter on Saturday night when a dance was happening.

She tried working in town, raising flowers, making pottery, helping in the fields all the time baking spectacular pies and looking after the children. She loved telling jokes and entertaining and liked being the center of attention. Her folded clippings include a poem by Della Springer entitled, “Tis Wonderful,” that says, … “Tis wonderful being a farmer’s wife, Knowing the freedom of country life; To walk in nature’s garden fair, to breathe the pure sweet country air Far away from the city’s strife, Tis wonderful being a farmer’s wife!”

Farm women know the reality was quite different and eventually Carolyn came to realize she needed something more. The marriage ended after the children grew up and she moved to Phoenix, Ariz., and went to work. Sisterhood still continued although we were further apart and connected by letters and phone calls. She wrote about her new life and gave advice from a distance. Phone calls allowed us to touch base on family feuds and secrets, hard times and joys. My brother Don allowed her to live in his condo in Scottsdale but eventually the cost of living became too much for her. Her health deteriorated. Helen and Harvey Richard, (another sister) and I drove to Arizona in 1989 and helped her move back to Scottsbluff to be near her children.

Her grandchildren brought much happiness. Advice still flowed to her siblings. She accompanied me to Cheyenne, Wyo., to check out the school where I would be teaching. Each year she sent lots of letters and cards that I have saved. Our brother’s death in Vietnam affected her deeply and I have kept her letters to him. I am looking at one now titled “The Windows of Gold,” by Helen Steiner Rice. She also sent cards to my children, friends, and mother-in-law giving them advice about how they should treat elders and conduct their lives. They are my treasure now.

She was my teacher, my personal press agent, and my shrink. She made me laugh because she always thought I was too serious and tried too hard. She gave me childhood memories and she lived my grown up dreams. I have found the perfect Valentine for her in an antique shop that depicts two children in a garden that says on the heart, “A Token of Love.”

Thank you at long last.

~ Barbie

The Valentine I am looking at today is dated Feb. 14, 1991. The valentine was from my oldest sister, Carolyn. It tells me that I am a lovely, kind and compassionate woman and that there is a special place for me in God’s garden. Sweet words sent to sooth my heart – Happy Love Day – she continued knowing that sisters are different flowers in that garden. I want to write or talk to her to tell her how nice it was to grow up with someone to lean on and to count on and to share my memories and good news. But that is impossible – for she is gone now. So I will try to put down on paper what is in my heart.

According to Louisa May Alcott, helping one another is the religion of sisterhood. And help she did – sweet Carolyn enclosed four pages of copied news clippings expressing “Thoughts for today,” for me in that valentine. The yellowed folded papers include a valentine message from 1877.

If you will be my Valentine,

my charming little dear,

The sun can never help but shine

throughout the coming year.

If you will be my Valentine,

you’ll see in all your walks,

Fresh lemon drops on every twig

and peanuts on the stalks.

But if from you I never hear,

nor even get a line,

I’ll ask some other nicer girl

to be my Valentine.

It is said that sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic and challenging world and recently I heard that for troubled youth having a sister is the key to success.

Carolyn was the first to marry in our family and move out into the chaos. She married Harold Hilzer right after she graduated from high school. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and they moved to Colorado Springs, Colo. I remember her bringing me a set of jacks as a gift on the first furlough. Later, they provided jobs for my mother and four other siblings each year on their farm east of Scottsbluff, Wyo. Harold helped us in many ways. He provided us with beef and raised and helped with chickens in the summer. They saw us through some pretty rough times even after they moved to a farm, the Gering sugar factory and another near Scottsbluff National Monument.

Farming was a tough act for my sister who was bright and vivacious. One of her biggest pleasures was shopping downtown on Saturday. I pushed her two beautiful girls, Lori and Leanne, while she visited with friends in stores. Her boys, Stan and Steve, were also dressed in matching suits sewn by my mother. She went through several phases utilizing her talents. I was usually her babysitter on Saturday night when a dance was happening.

She tried working in town, raising flowers, making pottery, helping in the fields all the time baking spectacular pies and looking after the children. She loved telling jokes and entertaining and liked being the center of attention. Her folded clippings include a poem by Della Springer entitled, “Tis Wonderful,” that says, … “Tis wonderful being a farmer’s wife, Knowing the freedom of country life; To walk in nature’s garden fair, to breathe the pure sweet country air Far away from the city’s strife, Tis wonderful being a farmer’s wife!”

Farm women know the reality was quite different and eventually Carolyn came to realize she needed something more. The marriage ended after the children grew up and she moved to Phoenix, Ariz., and went to work. Sisterhood still continued although we were further apart and connected by letters and phone calls. She wrote about her new life and gave advice from a distance. Phone calls allowed us to touch base on family feuds and secrets, hard times and joys. My brother Don allowed her to live in his condo in Scottsdale but eventually the cost of living became too much for her. Her health deteriorated. Helen and Harvey Richard, (another sister) and I drove to Arizona in 1989 and helped her move back to Scottsbluff to be near her children.

Her grandchildren brought much happiness. Advice still flowed to her siblings. She accompanied me to Cheyenne, Wyo., to check out the school where I would be teaching. Each year she sent lots of letters and cards that I have saved. Our brother’s death in Vietnam affected her deeply and I have kept her letters to him. I am looking at one now titled “The Windows of Gold,” by Helen Steiner Rice. She also sent cards to my children, friends, and mother-in-law giving them advice about how they should treat elders and conduct their lives. They are my treasure now.

She was my teacher, my personal press agent, and my shrink. She made me laugh because she always thought I was too serious and tried too hard. She gave me childhood memories and she lived my grown up dreams. I have found the perfect Valentine for her in an antique shop that depicts two children in a garden that says on the heart, “A Token of Love.”

Thank you at long last.

~ Barbie


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