June 04, 2012: Sandwiches of the Freakishy-Strong

June 4, 2012

When I go on about my older sisters I know I will be thought of as ascending towards hyperbole. When I start to describe them in terms of powerful weather systems or compare them to a Nordic mythological figure, you will just have to forgive me. True, I wax poetical sometimes, and I will confess to a great affection towards these wonderful women. “But how” you may ask, “…can a man have such intense affection and extreme awe (sometimes in the very same moment) for a sibling?” And you would be right to question me, but take a couple of things in consideration:  I have lived with these women through my formative years. Also, I hear  a lot of people complain about their families. They say you cannot choose your family, you just have to adapt to the one you have. I, outside all my other troubles, am lucky in one respect…that if I could choose my family, I would choose exactly the one that I have.

The Eye of the Hurricane

Being bigger, older, and thus, more worldly, my sisters had the right of seniority, when I was young. True to their kind natures, they rarely chose to enforce this, but the threat was inherent. Although all unique individuals, my sisters had a strain of traits that they all had in common. On the exterior they are all gorgeous, outgoing, willful, courageous, athletic, and hardy.  On the interior: intelligent, creative, caring, talented, loving, funny, nurturing and sympathetic. You know how tornadoes and hurricanes have that dramatic exterior surrounding the still eye in the center? That’s a pretty good visual metaphor for the Vedder-women. An awesome force of nature. Put yourself in their path and they will change your life forever.


I was always amazed (and truthfully, sometimes a little bit repelled) by the men that would attempt to court my sisters during their teen-age years. I’m not talking about the fine men they eventually ended up with, but the lunkheads that vied for their affections with no sincere intentions. Certainly I could understand the attraction to any of my sisters. What man wouldn’t want an intelligent, beautiful and talented woman at their side? My feelings aside of the unworthiness of these handsome, philandering-wanna-be’s, these silly simpletons, these lazy Lotharios, it was more that I just couldn’t  believe that they knew what they were getting themselves into! “Look,” I wanted to warn them (wanted to, but never did) “If you need that kind of excitement in your life, you’re better off just purchasing a bear! When things die down, you can collect your remaining limbs and sell the damn animal to a circus!” Of course, I never told them this. Not for any love lost on the suitors (they had the shelf life of bread left out on the porch on a rainy day, anyway.) No, I never said anything because any one of my sisters would have flattened me for sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong!

The Goose and the Gander

One of the things my parents did quite well when we were all growing up, was that they put no division of labor between the kids. Sure, I griped about it, but I was expected to dust and wash dishes as well as any outside chores. Conversely, my sisters were expected to shovel and mow the lawn. I think this removal of any sex-bias towards work made my sisters hardy and showed them that physically, they were just as capable as any boy. For, me, I know that I never shirk any chores of a household nature, and this helped open up the world of culinary arts to me.

As they have grown older, my sisters became tame enough to become wonderful mothers to a slew of amazing children (nieces and nephews that have become more family I would choose!) But a banked fire can still emit an intense…and lasting heat. Another quality the sisters share is that most of them are excellent chefs whose skill exceeds my own. When I tell my friends this, they are amazed. I tell them that it is only that I may have had more time to excel in the culinary arts as I have never been a parent.


My version of Joanne’s sandwich: fresh basil; grilled red pepper; portobello mushroom roasted with garlic; mayo and provolone on a wheat ciabatta bread, then grilled.

My eldest sister Joanne is one with a myriad of conflicting traits: on the outside she is this gorgeous blond-haired, blue-eyed, slim, yet compact beauty. Her’s is the image of the Valkyrie that the Vikings gleefully leapt into battle, in order to end up at her side. Stern but charming, forceful yet kind, stubborn ‘tho nurturing, capable of cleaning out the gunk of a broken garbage disposal or create stunning artwork, her extremes of capabilities and personality traits complement one another to make a balanced and strong woman. When I used to visit or babysit, she would make me the most fantastic sandwiches. A while ago, I was visiting and she made me this sandwich to fit my vegetarian diet. As she was making it for me, she got into a loving tussle with her delightful daughter, Bryna. True to Bryna’s funny and wry humor she shouts at her mom,”You are so freakishly strong!” Never hearing this particular phrase before (at least when referred to one of my sisters) I ask Bryna what she meant. Bryna goes on to say that Joanne is preternaturally hardy and could beat me in an arm-wrestling match, if I was dumb enough to take her on. Never one to back down from a challenge, I took that bet! After all, I had lifted weights every other day since I was sixteen, so I figured this would be pretty easy. At first grip from Joanne, I knew I was in trouble. Gone, was that funny and cheery hostess that artfully made that delicious sandwich a moment ago. I had locked hands with steely eyed Brunhilde!

Yeah…you might want to skip the fisticuffs and just buy her a beer!

I honestly can’t remember who won that match. I, who usually remember such incidents with crystal accuracy, figure the male ego has that perfect defense mechanism that clouds memory from humiliating defeats. As for Joanne, she won’t tell…she’s too much a lady.


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