A brother and sister compete for daylight.
|Every year, my wife and I would pack up the kids, some belongings and victuals, and head towards Hudson Bay. We would always pick the winter Solstice days for this trip, and we would take the rugged Land Rover with its four-wheel drive and locked-differential capability to pull us through the worst weather conditions. We never had a problem we couldn't manage our way out of.
There was a park on the edge of some unnamed lake where the tourists or campers would gather for short periods of time, say, a weekend or even a month. However, the austerity of the area and the isolation usually drove most back to town in a week or so. But we would stay as long as the kids let us, and they, most often, looked forward to this exercise of privation.
Why did we do it? On a dare. At first. My sister met a man in college that she couldn't bear to be away from, but he was from Australia and she knew he would return once graduation was over. When the time came, they both hopped the plane together and flew away from our comfortable living in lower Minnesota. Our mom was distraught without her, and I wasn't compensation enough. Mom bawled and carried on for a week, but she eventually gave in and accepted a future of rare visits, grandchildren born without her vigil.
One thing my sister left with me was that I would call her at least once a year for a long telephone conversation with reports of what each one was doing, was hoping for in the next year, the suggested naming of the next kid to be born, for instance.
Kit married Wayne once they landed in Sydney and the first boy was born a few months later. She called me then and asked if she could name him after me. I agreed, but the stipulation was that she had to spend at least two hours on the phone with me and let me speak to my nephew so he knew how to speak real American English.
And then she opened up the dare. Skype was beginning to catch on, mostly for business conferences, but it was still there for friends to view each other's face while talking, and it could be done across the oceans on favorable days.
"What's a favorable day?" I asked.
"I want to do it on a Solstice day, the one where it's the shortest day of the year or the longest depending on which hemisphere you're in." She beamed with the satisfaction of having thought of it.
I said, "Who gets what? Who gets the shortest day?"
"You do!" she laughed. "I want to see you miserable in the dark and cold."
I agreed. That was fifteen years ago, and for the first three years I would dutifully call at the agreed time—four o'clock, our time, in the afternoon—and we would chat about things we had done, were going to do, how our lives were getting on as we began to notice the vestiges of age creeping in. It was better than a Christmas card, since that was the Solstice we picked. I don't think she thought of that, though, when we made that decision.
So many things were said over those conversations: the moves we made to bigger and better homes, the births of, first, her children, and then mine when I finally married a few years later to someone she was suspicious of at the start. When Skype was available and she finally saw Melanie for the first time, for once not in just a fuzzy photograph, she agreed I had made a good choice.
Since they lived close to Sydney Australia, they had over fourteen hours of daylight, fourteen very hot ones! Our day in Manitoba, near Churchill, was five and a half hours, and very cold ones! We were willing to be this dramatic about our dare, seeing as how my sister rarely left the comforts of a house. However, she only spent a couple hours in this adventure; whereas, our side of it took the better part of two weeks. Moreover, it seemed as though Kit was always in labor or pregnant or one of her kids had done some spectacular thing at school, while we had little to expand on.
I can rest assured, though, that not one of my friends or acquaintances can boast of a better or more rewarding experience on the Solstice.