|View of Mt. Baker, Washington, from Aldegrove, B.C.|
The last several weeks, Jan and I’d heard many stories about Luke – all of them good. Whenever
that happens, you wonder if a person can actually fulfill expectations. In my mind, I’d manufactured
some Adonis-like human being, with six foot wings. In this scenario, big brother did not disappoint.
Arriving minutes before dinner, standing at a little over six feet tall; peering down from a pair
of heart-stopping baby blues, and wavy, chestnut brown hair floating past his shoulders, Yvette’s sexy,
charismatic older brother easily lived up to the hype. One glance and it was easy to understand why
Luke drew people to him like shit sticks to a blanket – particularly females.
Once introductions were over, we took our seats at the table set for twelve. Jean had prepared a
spectacular turkey feast, accompanied by all the appropriate trimmings.
What struck me most about Yvette’s older brother was his gentleness.
At times, exchanges between parents and son were prickly. Staring down my plate, I listened as
table might help improve what he'd perceived his parents’ questionable opinion of their only son. The
back and forth reminded me of squabbles between Chris and my parents around the Sunday evening
dinner table, not many years before; heated arguments about my brother’s hair length, his unsuitable
clothing, and what they saw as rebellion in general. According to Luke, Jan and I were doing the
same thing that he was: bucking conformity, trying to find a sustainable way to keep our heads afloat;
refraining from caving to societal traditions and parental expectations.
I hadn’t exactly thought of it that way, yet when Luke said it, it sounded sensible. Then again,
everything that floated out of Yvette’s big brother’s princely mouth seemed reasonable. Much to their
mom and dad’s dread, Luke pointed out that even his kid sister was an example of non-compliance.
After all, Yvette had both feet planted firmly in her big brother’s shadow.
After a time, someone cracked a joke, people moved on to lighter dialogue. You got the feeling
this was the norm. Relieved the conversation hadn’t spiraled into obtuse remarks or hostility; I'd
noted that although members of Yvette’s family did not unanimously agree, they were civil and
respectful of one another. Levity had deflected beautifully. The absence of alcohol might have had something to do with it.
Dishes cleared away, everybody milled about as Jean served homemade coconut cream pie and
Nanaimo bars. Announcing that he would be returning to his friend Mandy’s place in Langley, Luke
asked Louise if she’d give him a lift. Prior to our trip to Aldergrove, it had been decided that Louise,
who lived with her husband in Vancouver, would drop Jan and me off at the Y on her way
home. From there, we’d take the bus back out to Betsy’s for one last night, before our departure with
Walter and company next morning.
When it time came to leave, it was tough bidding Yvette yet another goodbye. Tears welling, the
three of us made a firm promise to meet up in Banff that summer. Thoughtfully, Yvette wrapped up
the remaining Nanaimo bars for us to take on the road.
I gestured affirmatively. “That could definitely work.”
1976: Tapes from California © 2016 Jill C. Nelson