My parents are an inspiration for my life. They are two of the most loving people I know. They care so much and about so many things. I think many people are concerned with their immediate surroundings and it is a natural experience: Humans have a hard time thinking outside the experiences they know. But not my parents. They are two of the most socially aware people I know. They care about events and problems happening outside of their sphere and sincerely want to create a better world for everyone. And, I like to think, they passed this immense capacity for compassion, empathy, and passion on to me.
By the time I was born, babies were old hat for my family, which in a lot of ways really rocks. My parents had five other children to practice on before I came along. My mom likes to tell me how I smiled two minutes after I was born, and this story sets the tone for my childhood.
I was, by all accounts, a sweet child– exceptionally helpful and unusually happy. It must have some truth, because my older siblings made up a song to tease me about it.
(to the tune of Cruella Deville)
Maria the clown, Maria the clown
if she doesn’t make you smile, everything else will make you frown,
to see her is to end up laughing
on the ground
Maria, Maria, the clown.
Even though these are the stories I hear, I am not convinced I was happy due to my personality; I think it is more likely I was thrilled to be in the greatest family. It was easy to laugh and smile and help when my family showed me so much love and joy.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I was the sixth child. Before I was born my parents had Matt, Gina, Kendrick, Emily, and Theresa. I guess one of the best ways to tell you about my family is to tell stories about each sibling and the many family outings we had.
My oldest brother, Matt, is now married to my sister-in-law Laura and they have a wonderfully quirky son named Camden who is one year and five months. My brother Matt was lovingly dubbed the “golden child” of our family. Ask any of my older sisters: he got out of everything. When I was born, Matt was already 8 years old. By the time I have any real memories (remember my memory is terrible) Matt was in high school. And what high school boy has time for his six-year-old kid sister? So my memories of him and me are limited. I know we sat by each other at dinner. Mostly, I know this from the “Italian Dressing Fiasco.” Since Matt sat by a younger sibling, he was responsible for helping prepare my food. This meant pouring a lot of salad dressing. Well, as most people know, Italian dressing needs to be shaken well before it is used. I think my sister Emily had just finished using it and passed it our way, so it had just been shaken. Well, I still thought Matt should shake it up for me (that was the best part of salad for me: shaking the dressing). I threw a big enough fit and he finally gave in and shook the dressing. He shook the dressing all over the table, the floor, and the ceiling. Apparently he forgot to check the cap before he shook it up and Emily had not put it back on securely (why should she, she just shook it up, it was fine). Until we repainted the kitchen a few years ago, you could still see the Italian dressing stains on the ceiling.
Gina, my eldest sister, has a similar history with me. She is six years older than me, but we did interact more. For a while we shared a room and I think I just paid more attention to her. I remember spying on her when she brought boys over and going through her things when she wasn’t around. It was a study of what I would be like as I grew up. My eldest sister always seemed so cool and fashionable: she rocked the temporary perm, temporary coloring, and overalls in high school. I thought she was hot stuff. I looked up to her a lot. But, she was my big sister and often my babysitter, which meant our relationship was not one of friends. In fact, I would say we have only moved into the friend arena in recent years. Gina always had time for me though. When she was in college, we visited her a couple times (one time with terrifying results), and she was the one who taught me to crochet. A skill that has become invaluable to me.
Kendrick, chronologically my next sibling, was my idol growing up. I thought he was the coolest person in the world. I don’t know what our relationship was like or how he remembers how we interacted. I always felt that Kendrick, Emily, and Theresa were a group since they were all so close in school (just a grade level apart). Anytime I hung out with them, I felt like I was tagging along. So I do have memories of playing with Kendrick when it was still okay for him to play with his little sisters. But I also have two distinct memories of him from when I was in late elementary/middle school. The first one happened when I found cigarette buds by the garbage can one day. I was convinced that Kendrick was doing drugs (since he was such a bamf). I made my cousin Sammy search his room with me, looking for any evidence of his illegal activities. We came up with nothing except a BNL album. The cover art was really weird and I felt that it proved K was on drugs. Sammy told me that no, it was a really good album and we put on a song and ended up jumping all over Kendrick’s bed and had a blast. The second impression, one that actually always annoyed me, was how in love with Kendrick my friends were. All through middle and high schools I had to listen to my friends giggle when my brother came around. It was the worst.
My sister Emily is next in the line up. The running joke throughout her childhood was that she was punched out of the wall. She is our “adopted” sister. I don’t know if I fully understand the joke, since I wasn’t cognitive of the creation of it. All I know is that she hates it. And it is kind of lame. Emily was the resident book-worm growing up, which is really saying something since my family is extremely booky. She always had her nose in a book and, if it was a good one, then you could not get her away from it. I think I was a pest for her. I was three years younger than her, which, during childhood, is the sweet spot for clashing personalities. Every time I was just growing into something, she was growing out it. Still, Emily is a staple in my childhood. Like I said, I got to tag along a lot. Everything I saw Emily do, I knew that eventually it would be my turn.
Theresa is up next. She is on year and 363 days older than me. She actually celebrated her second birthday in the hospital with me. Thus began the creation of the closest sister relationship I had growing up. She almost killed me seven months later feeding me candy corn, so I wouldn’t feel left out of the Halloween celebrations. A few years later, we found ourselves sharing a room in the basement together. Most nights one of us would end up in the laundry room with the other down the hall in the bathroom (my parents’ punishment for us not falling asleep). We would “whisper” across the hall and try to sneak back into our room, but our parents always seemed to know what was up; probably because we have no sense of what “whispering” means. I think I was always louder when I whispered than when I talked in a normal voice. Still do. Theresa was my partner in crime, although more often than not, I ended up throwing her under the bus when it came down to the wire. I was the worst.
So that’s the top five. Of course, I was number six, but what about the other seven? Well we don’t really count them in our family.
No, I am just kidding. I am going to separate them into another post. So look forward to that!