Childhood · Death · Family · Grief · Love

Dream Memories

Good dreams are called just that… dreams.

Bad ones are called nightmares.

There’s no distinction between “good” and “bad” memories. We just label them as such.

December 21st isn’t an easy day for me to remember. The beginning portion of the day I can’t recall, but the moments leading up to learning my sister was in a fatal accident are burned forever in my mind.

And, while those “nightmare-ish” memories are the ones my brain naturally turns to on this day… they aren’t the ones I like to recall.

I’m sure we all have “nightmare” memories that creep into our thoughts. Sometimes, we even try to push them away. But, they still come. We cry, we wonder “what if”, we regret the things left undone and unsaid…. It’s a sad and lonely path. It’s one I’ve traveled many times and one I don’t enjoy.

I try, VERY HARD, to concentrate more on my “dream” memories. The happy ones. The precious times. The ones that make me smile.

And, I’m so thankful that I have so many of them to keep me happy and safe while I’m traveling down dark and lonely roads.

So… on this morning, while I’m undoubtedly going to have those “nightmare” memories of that night, I’m going to also focus on the “dream” ones. These are random, they make me smile (and cry), but when I sit and recall my sister and the memories full of love… this is what I see…

My first memories of Jordan were before she was born! I remember mama trying to pick out a name for her… I loved Jessica! And, did NOT like Jordan! I pleaded for Mama to name her Jordan Jessica. When her name was decided as Jordan Sumner, that didn’t suit me so I referred to her as Jordan Jessica Sumner Aldridge for quite awhile. I called her Jordan Jessica when we played together and introduced her that way to others.

In Whiteville I was old enough to “babysit” and help Mama out with Jordan. I helped give her baths at night and we played the animal game; in order to get Jordan to let me wash her with soap we would be a giraffe and stretch our arms up high… we’d bend over and roar like a lion… we’d have “big ears” like an elephant to wash behind our ears… I have a vision of Jordan as a toddler covered in soap in our bathtub in Whiteville. Smiling. I’m on my knees outside the tub. She’s naked and covered in suds. I get flashbacks often when I’m giving Jase a bath. I’ve never played the animal game with him, however. That’s something special I wanna keep between us two.

We didn’t trick-or-treat as little kids. Instead, we went to a Halloween Carnival at a local private school. One year, Daddy dressed up in a scary mask with a ripped lumberjack shirt… it scared the mess out of Jordan and she wouldn’t go near him for awhile!

Travis and Jordan shared a room in Whiteville. Well, in theory they did… they had a bunk bed but Jordan slept with Mama and Daddy every night. Their bunk was an iron wrought bed, with a full mattress on the bottom and a twin on top! We jumped and climbed all over it! Well… one night while playing the bed collapsed!! And, it trapped me between the bedposts and the dresser. To my 7-year-old self it was a very traumatic experience. (Maybe it wasn’t actually that bad in reality but I still recall it as being frightening!) I was pinned between the bed and dresser and could not move… my head was stuck! Mama ran down the hallway, saw me, yelled “where’s Jordan?” and LEFT ME PINNED. After that night I was always convinced she loved Jordan more than me! Haha!!

We took dance in Whiteville—myself, Jordan, my best friend Ryan, and Travis even took tumbling one year. Jordan’s class did the CUTEST routine to Achy Breaky Heart. They were dressed in cowgirl outfits, white shirts with red tassels. Each girl came to the front to do a “solo”. Jordan’s solo was doing toe swings. She swung her arms back and forth while tapping her toes behind her. I don’t remember the venue, but I remember watching her performance from the back of an older auditorium… The crowd LOVED this routine! When they cheered for Jordan she had the sweetest little smile… and then she pranced back to her spot with her hands on her hips!

I remember the first roller coaster Jordan rode: The Hulk at Universal. Travis and I were sitting beside each other and Mama and Jordan were behind us. I think Mama was more scared than Jordan! She screamed the whole time. If Jordan screamed I couldn’t hear her over Mama! (Daddy could never ride the “big” rides with us… he got motion sick! He attempted a 3D ride once… Jurassic Park… and they had to close the ride to clean up after us!)

I remember all of us trying to pull the sword from the stone at Disney World. I’m planning our trip now as a family with my husband and son, and this is the most vivid memory I have from our trips as a family. I ordered a pair of “Belle” Minnie Mouse ears to wear in the parks one day… when I pulled them out of the box I cried. I’m sure when we are in the parks and see Belle or dine at the Beast’s castle I will cry, as well. Beauty and the Beast was her favorite Disney movie. When I saw the live action film in theatres I bawled through the whole thing…

When we lived in Beulaville, Travis and Jordan got pretty brave one day and thought it was funny to jump out of the second story window of our home onto the trampoline. I had no idea that the trampoline was under the window… I just came upstairs, Jordan said, “look!” and there she jumped! They did this several times. Several people called mom that night to say they saw them “jumping” out the window…  I remember running upstairs to see WHAT they were doing and there she was: perched on the window sill, grinning like a Cheshire cat!

Jordan had a sleepover when she was a pre-teen. I remember her asking me if I’d stay and do makeup and fix hair for her friends. She had recently had a dance competition and I’d done her makeup for that. Jordan and I were always pretty far apart in age… 5 years can be a lot when you’re 3 and 8, 6 and 11… This was one of the first memories I have of us being able to share similar interests. I played with her and her friends that night and had a fun time!

As she got older Jordan loved to read; we’d recommend books to one another. The entire reason I got so into Harry Potter was because Jordan first loved the books. The last book I recommended to Jordan, and the last book she read, was The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom. I didn’t begin reading the Harry Potter series until after Jordan was gone. Reading the books, and now seeing the movies, makes me happy. She loved the stories. When we were little we both loved Disney princess movies (I loved Ariel, she loved Belle). The world of Harry Potter seems like a more “mature” imaginary world that we could both get lost within… Shane and I both love these stories, and knowing Jordan loved them, too, makes me smile.

Jordan got to come and stay with me one weekend in Raleigh while I was in college. We went to an Avett Brothers concert at the Cat’s Cradle outside Chapel Hill. I remember sitting along the side of the venue on a step of some sort… Jordan laid her head on my shoulder. She said she was sleepy… We laughed because she was a high school student out at a concert in a college town; should be out partying hard and she was “tired”. She laid her head back on my shoulder and I laid my head down on hers. I can’t remember what song was playing, but I remember the way the stage looked. Blue and purple-ish lights. Some smog… we were sitting to the left of the stage… I can see the stage and feel her head on my shoulder vividly.

Just days before her accident Jordan and I talked for hours. I was home from college, the computer was in her room, and I was checking my grades and I’m sure playing around on Facebook. We talked for hours and around midnight she told me she needed to go to bed, since she had school the next day. I went downstairs to watch TV and within 30 minutes she as downstairs, too. She couldn’t sleep. We stayed up a few more hours. Just talking. I wish I could remember about what… but the details escape me. But we talked… laughed… agreed on things… we were friends. As Jordan aged we became so close. She was someone that I texted when things went good or bad. Someone that I called when I was upset or needed advice. Or, when I was just mad and needed someone to listen to me.

I’m so thankful that life gave us enough time to evolve from sisters to best friends. The age gap was always there, but by high school and college we were in the same place; we held the same interests, liked the same music, could share (and steal) each others’ clothes… we even had some overlapping friends and could hang out together. I’m so very thankful for that.

Perhaps my favorite memory is a very simple one. One Fourth of July Shane and I were at home in Beulaville… at the last minute we decided to ride around and find some fireworks to watch. Jordan was home so we asked if she wanted to come with us. She said no, but at the last minute changed her mind. We drove around, parked here and there, and watched small fireworks that families were shooting off, then drove and found more. From that night I have this image of Jordan, while parked watching fireworks: a teenager… smiling… with the glow of fireworks across her face. I have always loved fireworks. Like, I get “little kid giddy” over watching them! And, every time I watch them now, I see that image in my head!

This memory was always so precious to me. A few years ago we took our son, Jase, to see fireworks in downtown Wilmington. Since it was his first fireworks show (that he would be able to enjoy; he’d seen some as a baby but slept through them all!) I decided to record it. I enjoyed the show with my family, I was impressed at how much Jase talked while watching (look at that! Ef-ah-tuts!! Which, is how he pronounced fireworks!) and really enjoyed myself. I thought of Jordan and smiled while watching the show with my family. When I later looked at the video, the tears came. But, happy tears.

That same smile of genuine joy, the same look of amazement in her eyes, the same way the lights flowed over her face… it was all there in the video. Glimpses of my favorite memory of Jordan, all between flashes of firework light on my son’s face.

So, in a few months I’m going to travel to Disney. I’ll be wearing my Belle ears, I’ll be holding my son. I’ll be watching the most beautiful fireworks show on the planet.

And, I’ll close my eyes and see her face, covered in fireworks, too.

I’ll cry. But, I’ll also smile. And, I’ll be thankful for such precious “dream” memories.

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