My sister Jean is back east for a holiday visit. She is staying with my younger sister Abby in Acton, Mass. Today I drove up there to hang out with them. First we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant with my dad and his friend Rhoda. Jean forgot her reading glasses, and asked us to read the fortune from her fortune cookie to her. Of course we didn’t read her the actual fortune, and made something up: something about being sure to rely on the wisdom of your brothers and sisters. Dad and Rhoda were tolerant of us. After lunch, dad and Rhoda had to run some errand, so Jean and Abby and I decided to go browse in bookstores.

Then it was time to go get a cup of coffee. “Show Dan your video,” said Abby to Jean. Jean, who is the Photographer and Writer of us three, showed us the video she shot on her cell phone. It was pretty cool. Jean said she was going to shoot another video while we were having coffee, and of course Abby pretended to pick her nose, which led to a number of booger jokes. We left an extra big tip for the waitress.

Abby invited us to dinner at her house. Jim, her husband, took it in his stride when all three Harper children descended on his peaceful house. Abby showed me the gorilla puppet that Jean got her for Christmas. It was pretty cool. At the dinner table, Jean and Abby and I competed to see who could tell Jim the best story about the stupid things we did when we were kids.

After dinner, Jean and I took turns making the gorilla puppet talk. Abby, who of the three of us is the acknowledged Expert on Children’s Literature and Toys, brought out a monkey puppet from her vast puppet collection. When there are puppets among the three of us, they take on distinct personalities, and we talk to them as if they are alive. Jim started to askance at us, got up to get another beer. “Um,” said Abby, “I think Jim’s getting kinda creeped out by the puppets.” We stopped. I decided it was time for me to leave — I had a long drive ahead of me, and besides no one should have to put up with the three of us Harper siblings for very long.

I got home about nine o’clock. “What did you do?” said Carol.

“Brother and sister stuff,” I said. Carol is an only child, so this didn’t mean much to her.

“Like what?” said Carol.

“Making fun of each other,” I said. “Teasing each other. Being stupid.”

Carol stamped her foot. “I want to do all that,” she said. She wishes she had had brothers and sisters. I didn’t tell her about the booger jokes; I figured I wouldn’t spoil her idealized notion of what it’s like to have siblings.

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