My sister, Debbie, and I did not see eye-to-eye on most things growing up.
She is only 15 months older than me, but for most of my childhood, she seemed to think it was 15 years. And since she was older and “more mature,” she always got top pick. Always.
When we played school, she always got to be the teacher. When we played broadcast news, she got to be lead anchor. When we played Mass, she was always the priest.
All of this made me simultaneously hate her and crave her affection. “If she likes me,” I naively thought, “maybe I’ll get to be the priest every once in a while.” Classic younger sibling mistake. It would turn into our biggest argument: I wanted to be her and she didn’t want to be anywhere near me.
Fortunately, two things saved our relationship.
The first: our love for biopics. If a movie trailer had the words “true story” in it, we were on it like Siskell and Ebert. Find me two nine- and ten-year-old girls who were obsessed with the movie Heart Like a Wheel: The Shirley Muldowney Story as much as we were and I will show you two girls who are lying little bitches.
The second was music. For Christmas 1985, Santa joined Columbia House and left a box of 12 cassettes for my sister and I to share. Normally we would have been pissed about the whole sharing thing. Our closeness in age meant we didn’t own a single sweater we could call our own until middle school when I binge-ate brownies all summer long and gained 10 pounds more than her.
But having joint custody of these cassettes didn’t bother us. We happily played The Bangles, Madonna and Whitney Houston all the live-long day. The only thing we disagreed on was whether to listen to “Walk Like and Egyptian” or “True Blue” first.
So, when the movie Sweet Dreams hit cable, we were in heaven. It was like the Reeses’ commercial where the guy with the chocolate bumps into the guy with the open jar of peanut butter. The only thing better was when then made Labamba a couple of years later and we could swoon over Lou Diamond Phillips.
For those of you who haven’t seen Sweet Dreams, its the story of the doomed singer Patsy Cline. Jessica Lange plays Patsy and Ed Harris plays Patsy’s sometimes abusive husband Charlie Dick. (It took me a long time to watch a movie with Ed Harris in it and not see him as a real jerkwad.)
We became obsessed with the music. We wanted to listen to as much Patsy as we could get our hands on but we didn’t own any and had no way of getting it. Santa may have had a Columbia House membership, but we sure didn’t. And Musicland in the mall didn’t carry “Crazy” on cassingle.
We were so desperate to hear her music, we drug our tape recorder out to the living room and recorded the songs off the TV. They cut some of the songs short to work in less important things like dialogue and plot, but some Patsy was better than no Patsy.
Sweet Dreams became our two-hour peace treaty. If I was lucky, Debbie would be game to listen to our homemade soundtrack afterward and I would get another half hour of her time. The only argument we would get into was over who could sing “Crazy” better. Naturally, Debbie won.