Lex and I spent untold hours that summer staring into the green-black screen of an Apple II, venturing from Independence to the Pacific Northwest along the Oregon Trail. It would be years before we learned about Manifest Destiny, about Sooners and the Great Plains and Little Bighorn, about stolen lands and genocide and blankets laced with smallpox. Back then, the long journey westward was just a means of occupying our time after the sun went down. It was a new adventure to augment sleepless nights we had spent trying to rescue the Princess from Bowser’s castle.
I especially loved to hunt; Lex was great at crossing rivers and puzzling out how best to load our wagons before trips even began. We passed plates of snacks back and forth: the era-appropriate (Dunkaroos, chocolate Twizzlers, and Fruit Roll-Ups) mingling with flavors of an Italian-American home (salami, tiny slivers of mozzarella, and, of course, Stella d’Oro cookies). Often, our own little resupply train would arrive bearing a smile and a tray of root beer floats.
During that summer, on two hard oak chairs borrowed from our parents’ dining room, I was closer to my sister than I had ever been before—or perhaps since.
Two years later, the MECC published a deluxe edition of the game, introducing all-new mouse control features. By then, our interests had begun to diverge. Lex was on the precipice of high school, where she would gravitate toward cheerleading and gymnastics. A few years younger, I began a lifelong love affair with music and the movies, aided in large part by the indie booms of the early ’90s.
Growing up, we were always close. But beyond being the children of our parents, my sister and I soon had little in common. Geography played its part. She went to a leafy university outside of Philadelphia. By the time I got to the same city for college, she had moved on to medical school in New York.
Eventually, following work, Alexis moved out to eastern Long Island, not too far from the very end of the world. Eventually, following my dreams, I moved to New York City, where I found a life and work in the independent record industry. We’d see each other from time to time. But we were both busy creating the lives we wanted for ourselves. She married her college sweetheart, and they soon became parents.
After my mother dealt with the first of the few bouts of cancer that eventually killed her, my parents moved from the Jersey Shore to eastern Long Island, finding a home just a few blocks from Alexis and her growing family. They wanted to be closer to their kids in what they knew were my mother’s final years. I, just a few short hours away by the Long Island Rail Road, trekked east every few weeks for some much-needed respite from city life and to spend time with my dying mother.
A few years ago, my wife and I left New York City, daunted by the costs of raising a family in Manhattan. We relocated to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where it’s quiet and green and only 55 minutes by plane to the City. After a few visits, Alexis and her husband decided to follow our lead and relocated their family to the other side of town.