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  • My sister brought home precious things, and my mother made her take them back. When she was four she went to a yard sale and for a nickel bought a gold French horn in a velvet-lined box. I had never seen anything so beautiful. I couldn't believe she thought she could own such a thing. Our mother said it was worth more than a nickel and was for an adult or older child who could play it. My sister tried to take it back, but the woman at the garage sale wanted her to have it. I loved that horn and that velvet-lined box, though none of us could make it play music.

    When she was seven, my sister brought home a dead bird she found on the sidewalk on her way from school. When she walked in the door, cradling the bird to her cheek, our mother screamed. My sister dropped the bird and started to cry. The bird was beautiful, but it probably had parasites. When they calmed down, my mother got a shoebox and they buried the bird in the backyard.

    When she was ten, my sister brought home a brand new couch that Mrs. L. had put at the curb. Our mother saw her and her friends carrying it past the kitchen window into the backyard to furnish our ramshackle clubhouse. She made my sister and her friends take it back to the curb, explaining that it was left there for poor people who didn't have a couch in their house, not for clubhouses. It was a sofabed. It was very heavy. Mrs. L. had something called "agoraphobia." She didn't come outside and she was afraid of germs. When she offered you a box of tissues, she always took the top one off and offered you the second one, because there would be dust and germs on the top tissue.

    For my sister, the world is full of precious things.
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