I was born to be a middle child. More specifically I was born the baby of the family and subsequently thrust into the role of middle child at the age of four by the momentous, and to me, tragic arrival of my baby brother. Not tragic because of his arrival, tragic because of the surety that I would now never know the bond of sisterhood. But that is simply the chronology of how my birth order came to be. A story my mother has told us often is of one morning when I was a small infant and my older brother, Andrew, a toddler of two years old. As an aside, it is my belief that I had the good fortune to live through what many would call an “idyllic” childhood, I grew up in a small, sleepy town; which, I have come to suspect is part of the twilight zone. A mother whose sole purpose it seemed was to devote herself to our healthy mental and emotional development, and perhaps mold our character into specimens of such integrity that the family name would be as a beacon, shining into the darkest corners of our small town and perhaps even the world; and our father, who supported our mothers endeavours with serious discussions on the importance of honesty, gratitude, and hard work, and of course spankings. Spankings were, it seemed, an unquestionable assurance that come adolescence our chances of indulging in all types of deleterious and sinful behaviors would be significantly mitigated. I am quite certain we were all spanked preemptively at regular intervals as my parents were quite confident that we were already determined to initiate teenage rebellions that would shame our family and limit our future career paths to only those which would require name tags.
And for this I blame my oldest brother. If any child could strike fear into the hearts of a parent for their offspring’s future success and perhaps even survival, it was he. Which brings us in a roundabout way back to my mothers story. One morning my mother is sitting in the living room breastfeeding me as my father leaves the house for work. Minutes pass and she calls my brothers name, no answer (take note, this will be a recurring theme throughout our childhood). In a panic my mother sets me on the floor and runs outside, once on the driveway she sees, pedaling furiously down the street after my father is my two year old brother (without training wheels no less, precocious coordination and athleticism being a hallmark of my first born sibling), she proceeded to chase him down the street while still in her nightgown, which in her telling was quite indecent, not that my mom was a prude. Except that, yes, she was. As a child I was always comforted to hear my mother add to this story that she felt guilty for leaving me at home on the floor all alone, I was left to fend for myself yes, but not forgotten. She obviously retrieved him without incident that day and a number of different days after that as well. It’s a simple story really. No great suspense or hilarity. Yet, I believe it was so often told because of how it so accurately portrayed our roles at the time and through the years to come…my older brother, fearless, determined, undeterred by the cautions and consequences doled out by his wizened elders. And I, content and compliant, observing the sometimes tense interactions punctuated by my parents feelings of frustration and alarm while trying to contain and direct my older brothers endless energy and willfulness.
What I am is the amalgamation of these briefest of stories, a quick snapshot of seeming innocuous moments that made up my formative years. Inexplicably, some of the clearest, sharpest memories of childhood seem trivial and mundane, yet so true to my being that I can see that is me, without the unfortunate results of the attempts to mold and teach by mostly well-intentioned authority figures. What these are really, are attempts to prevent you from becoming something they are, or the hope you will become something they are not. Who I am. I am the four year old girl who lost track of time, mesmerized, looking at the water droplets on the roses in our front yard. The same girl would sit for hours under the oak trees imagining that acorns and sticks were people. A girl who was and still is captivated by the sight of those same oaks trees and rolling hills that she has passed by a thousand times. This girl, could not understand why her mother loved her and the knowledge of that mothers love, which asked for nothing, would move her to tears. A girl who believed she could be anything and do everything. She wanted to cry, but didn’t. And that made her proud. She could never adequately explain how much she loved being alive and how deep and wide the feelings inside of her were. She sang, everything. Because saying it wasn’t enough. She believed no one would ever know her, because how can you be known when what you are, are these moments coalescing with feelings, that wait for another moment with another person, when it will feel right.