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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Europe (excluding the United Kingdom) (02/19/09)

TITLE: Long Distance Oreos
By Margaret Gass


Christmas in July…or rather, Christmas list in July. August. September. It seemed to be growing every day, or at least every weekend that Elizabeth came home. Her younger sister was preparing for a year-long visit to Nice, France, as part of her college’s foreign exchange program. Lynn was leaving just after Christmas, so she planned to get needed items through the good will of her family. Of course, that primarily meant Mom and Papa, as Elizabeth was still in college, too.

Elizabeth quickly scanned the list, which now covered an entire page from a yellow legal pad in three columns. New suitcases, a backpack, a duffel bag. Special converters for outlets so she could plug in her curling iron and blow dryer. A new camera and film. Clothes. More clothes. A money belt? What was that? Just under the request for a money belt--Money for Money Belt! Elizabeth smiled at Lynn’s boldness, and knew that she would probably get it. Her own request was simple: a turkey baster. She wasn’t really sure why Mom thought that was funny, but as it was the only item on her list, Elizabeth was fairly sure it would be under the tree.

Christmas came and went far too quickly, and suddenly the family was saying goodbye in the International Concourse at the airport. Brave faces belied the fear of both mom and daughter, and Elizabeth suddenly realized that she would not see her sister for a year. She blinked back her tears as she said a prayer for Lynn to have a safe flight. Papa had tears in his eyes, too, but he cracked jokes to distract Mom, whom he had nicknamed, “Vice-President in Charge of Worry.” Worry she did, and Elizabeth was secretly glad to be headed back to school.

Mom called when Lynn made it safely to Copenhagen, and again when Lynn landed in Paris. Lynn and Julia, another exchange student, had tipped two young baggage handlers well to carry their bags to their connecting flights. Unfortunately, that was the last of that connection--the young men were posing as baggage handlers, and made off with the girls’ bags! Most of their luggage had been checked through to Nice, but Elizabeth knew how upset her little sister would be, and not just because she’d have to wear the same outfit for two more days…she had never really been away from home.

Maybe that’s why Elizabeth had received an actual letter from Lynn just a few weeks later: Lynn was desperately homesick, and quite a bit angry…the thieves got more than her clothes, they got her stash of Oreos and M&M’s--neither of which could be purchased in Nice. Elizabeth laughed out loud at Lynn’s four-page rant, and then reached for her car keys. She had some cookies to buy!

When Lynn received the box filled with Oreos, M&Ms, peanut butter, and a long letter, Elizabeth received a phone call. She was completely surprised. Lynn had never called in the three years Elizabeth had been away at college, and usually engaged in brief conversations when Elizabeth called her. Could this be the beginning of a new relationship for them?

It was. Lynn’s next letter was written on beautiful, scented stationery. Elizabeth eagerly tore into the envelope, and a scrap of white paper fell to the floor. Why is Lynn mailing me garbage? It wasn’t garbage, she discovered as she read her sister’s words. It was a piece of toilet paper. Lynn didn’t think Elizabeth would believe that it felt like sandpaper, especially since it was so expensive, costing more than the stationery. “Dear Lynn,” Elizabeth had replied, “Write your letters on the toilet paper, and use the stationery as tissue--it’s softer!”

The year passed quicker than Elizabeth thought it would, in part because she and Lynn continued to correspond. There were phone calls, too, when Lynn graduated, and again when their stepbrother passed away. Just before Lynn had to come home, she had the opportunity to go on a three-week tour of Europe with Julia. “I’ll visit Germany for you,” Lynn had said on her last call to Elizabeth. “I’ll go see the Rathaus-Glockenspiel for you when we visit Munich.”

That’s almost as good as seeing it myself, Elizabeth thought, surprised that her sister even remembered that she had wanted to see the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz, which commemorated the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lothringen. My sister loves me. Thank you, Lord, for using distance to remove the distance between us.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Connie Dixon02/26/09
This is a sweet story about sisters. It proves that distance can strengthen those relationships that need some help. Fun entry.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/02/09
I enjoyed the story of a sister's growing relationship. I loved Papa's name for his wife.
Joy Bach 03/02/09
What an excellent story! The interplay between the family members; especially the sisters, is so descriptive. I was right there. Great work.
Chrissi Dunn03/02/09
Well written - enjoyed this tale, and how you developed the different personalities of both sisters, along with their friendship.
Jan Ackerson 03/02/09
Wonderful irony in that last sentence!
Bryan Ridenour03/03/09
A story of reconciliation and sibling love and respect. I like it!