By Naomi Klouda
My memory of Esther starts with books, the fairy tales she read to us. Crowded as we were, we rag tag children who would soon number nine, piled on the bed around our older sister Esther. The closest kids could see the book’s illustrations best. In this way, I learned to love stories. She read patiently for a while, not a long while. During those moments and minutes, bugs bit us or snow fell into hopeful piles, and people’s quandaries came to light. Poor Jack and his mom, twisting their fates out of poverty. The trouble with magic bean stalks.
In this way, I learned to love stories. As I grew into elementary school age, Esther would recap stories to me from books she read. I didn’t understand, but I liked to listen. She with her long dark hair down to her waist saw little soil-dusted me as worthy of hearing about Taylor Caldwell and Thomas B. Costain, then later, the science fiction that drew her. In this way I became familiar with books I might or might not have read.
A sister who could answer questions like why are some people poor and not others? How come it takes so long to see spring time? Where did the stars get permission to be there? This was a valuable commodity, a sister who could answer. When she wasn’t too busy, I liked to show her to my friends. Her stories got me around a few confusing corners of childhood.
I hadn’t an idea this habit from childhood would grow into an occupation where I would get paid to ask why? How come? Or that I might find comfort in asking for, if not finding, the answers.
Esther grew up much too fast for my taste. She was out of the house by the time I was 12, on to her life. She married, took a physics degree, became an arctic scientist, had two daughters, launched a new career teaching underprivileged high school students their science in the Kent district of Seattle. Now she is on her way to the Peace Corp in Africa.
Esther would go on to read to many more children as a teacher. Teens, African-American, American Indian, European kids, some living in cars. They, soaking up her new information into their minds for the first time. Their edification at solid answers. Their notice that she is compassionate. She at times links in with me, a sister far away who tells stories for a newspaper audience. She tells her students our Homer stories. What I feel when I think of this, I can hardly express.
It feels like a well-ordered world, finally, where the earth rotates around the sun in a measured day, as she assured me it does.
As this sister embarks on her next journey that no doubt involves breathing new stories of hope into frightened kids, she continues her life. Before going to Africa, she comes this week to visit me in Homer. I will be so happy in the week to come, to visit Esther, the origination of my love for stories and the inspiration for what I chose as my life work.
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