Tracey was fourteen years older than me, so by the time I was to the point of wanting to spend time with my big sister she already had a lot going on and was trying to make her own way in life. She still managed to come around though, I know that from the numerous stories she would tell of our interactions, with me flubbing up words or ratting her out to mom, Tracey always seemed to find a way to embarrass me. Even if there wasn’t a story involved, her over-exaggerated affections and silly comments often made me squirm or regret starting the conversation. I’ll never forget as a kid she told me: you tell me what mom got me for Christmas and I’ll tell you what we got you. I did, and she didn’t. I fell for it and NEVER let her forget that she took advantage of her naive younger brother. I also recall when she found out I was having trouble with some of the kids at school. That was the day she took me in the backyard and taught me how to throw a punch, trying to enrage me so I’d practice it and attack her. I did, and caught her right in the nose—glorious. There are a lot of good Tracey stories, everything from going to Allen Video with her, two fantastic weddings, and me being in that rolling deathtrap she called a car when it plowed through our townhouse living room. A ton of great tales and memories with my sister, but there is one that always sticks out to me.
When I was much younger we had to spend a Saturday repairing my water bed. After finding the leak and patching, it was time to run the water hose from the backyard through my open bedroom window and wait the numerous hours for the gray mattress to be filled. It was quite boring and bugs were starting to get in, so I found myself quite miserable. Tracey saw this and without asking, simply told me to come with her and get in the car. No reason for me to be there while the water pumped anyway, so we were going for a drive. When we got in my sister said she had forgotten something and ducked back into the house quickly, leaving me to look down our long driveway, sliding my exposed arms into the shadows of the car, hiding from the sun. It wasn’t long before she returned though with two CDs in hand, popping the first case open. She started the car and slid the disc in while I wracked my brain for something to talk to her about. We began driving and soon there was no need for us to converse, as my ears were in for a treat. The Sugar Hill Gang was her first choice, and I was immediately hooked by Rapper’s Delight. Wonder Mike and his friends had me tapping a foot and wanting to learn all of the lyrics, which I eventually did. We went and got ice cream that day, but for me there was a lot more. There was a conversation with Tracey where she reassured me about a lot of things that were going on at the time, in the world as well as my personal life, and talked to me about much of the music she liked and her future plans.
My siblings and I love each other, but we never really just hung out very much, not getting to know the little intricacies of what the others like or did. This was one of those rare moments. It was also when I began enjoying and exploring rap. My siblings had a big affect on my music taste (or lack thereof) and what would eventually shape my listening habits, whether they realized that or not. One day I’ll tell you guys about when I received a Huey Lewis and the News greatest hits album and the first Hootie and the Blowfish all in the same week. This memory though sticks out in part because Tracey’s tastes changed eventually, going more towards country and Southern Rock, which I didn’t like. Before then though she had introduced me to performers like Kilo Ali, Grandmaster Flash, and Skee Lo, all of which put me on the path of a lot of artists I still listen to even today. Something I’m thankful for, which makes me realize how much I appreciate the times we did try and connect. There were still some moments, but in these past few years everyone was so busy with their own lives, jobs, significant others, and it just seemed so hard to stop and spend some time together, to get dessert and listen to music.
Since mom died I noticed we had all started saying, I love you, more to each other. That in part is what makes this so hard. Mom, and now Tracey, in six months of each other, and I was not ready for that. The three of us were talking not long after she passed, wanting to spend more time together, to fill in the gap. Now that gap seems infinitely bigger without Tracey and I’m not sure where to begin. It was so hard seeing her in that hospital bed, someone usually so vibrant and full of smiles. Cancer, I hate the word, as I hate Hell. One of her friends came in and wanted to play a song for her but couldn’t get it to work: the song won’t play but it made me think of you, she said. The only song I could think to play her was something no one else would get why it was important to me, but I want to keep that memory alive. My solace now is that you are up there with Ronnie. I tried to tell you how much I’d miss you without sounding too morbid, but… I wanted to say so much more, I meant it and more. Goodbye, sweet sister.