National Siblings Day, huh? Well, I have a couple of those we could celebrate.
Let me just start with telling you about my first three years of life. They were as joyous as could be. No little girl could have been happier. I had adoring parents, churches filled with people who were in love with the cute little preacher’s daughter. There were cats and a goat, grandparents who doted on me. It was pretty much … perfect.
That all changed the day Mom and Dad came home with Carol. All of a sudden their oldest girl, who had been potty trained at an early age and had never wet her bed, was wetting her bed every night. I’d come climb into bed with Mom and wet her side of the bed. Mom finally took to putting a pile of towels beside the bed so she wasn’t re-making it several times every night.
And then there were the flash cards. I’d learned to read and while Mom wasn’t about showing off my brilliance, she couldn’t help but show guests to our home just how stubborn her oldest daughter was. She’d flip through the cards and I’d proudly read each one – until she arrived at ‘baby.’ No way. I looked at it and refused to say anything. I was good for a little entertainment. But I soon learned that nothing was changing, so I’d best learn to live with it.
At this point, Mom and Dad were quite content with their little family – a couple of cute little girls who were pretty obedient most of the time. It was easy to travel with us and we kept things lively.
One day Mom went to the dentist and he asked if she was pregnant. Horrified, she asked why. He informed her that her gums told the tale and she might want to check it out. Dad had often joked that Mom was capable of raising 2.4 children. They weren’t prepared for a third, especially a little boy that was about to rock their worlds. Jamie was in to everything. Their obedient daughters had not prepared them for a son whose favorite thing to do was tear things apart in order to figure out whether they could be put back together.
If there was a child who was going to swallow pennies, it was Jamie. I found him behind the drapes one day and of course I had to tattle.
I probably wasn’t terribly fond of having him interrupt my quiet world either. This was the boy who got mad at me one day and took a pair of scissors to my very favorite book – The Little Engine Who Could.
I might have deserved it.
We tormented each other – back and forth – all the time. He has a scar on his forehead from the day I decided he’d make a great horsey and as he crawled around the dining room floor, I managed to (I swear it wasn’t on purpose) make him look up just before he ran headlong into a bricked corner of an odd little thing in the middle of the house. That wasn’t his first trip to the emergency room and I won’t say that Carol and I were happy that they had to go to Iowa City, since we got to go to the bank president’s home and watch color television. But we were … happy, that is. Especially once Mom calmed down and realized he wasn’t going to die.
Mom’s main requirement was that we treat each other with respect and love, even when we didn’t particularly care for each other. And oh, by the way, there was NEVER to be any hitting or kicking.
Dad wasn’t in the house often enough to hear all of the bickering and fights that we had, and if one of those erupted when he was around, his standard response was to put the two siblings who were hating each other at the moment on the second step of the stairway. They were not allowed to move from there until they had apologized to each other and then … oh my goodness, hug each other.
It’s hard to really hate each other once you’ve done that.
The three of us kids lived a pretty normal, idyllic childhood. Sure there were ugly moments and as we grew older and developed our own (read: wow, were we different) personalities, we had conflict and each of us dealt with our parent’s idiosyncrasies in different ways. We tested the world and it tested us. There are things we each look back and view differently than the others, some in good ways and some in … well, not so much. There were mistakes made, feelings hurt and poor choices, but that’s all just part of living, isn’t it?
So, Happy Siblings Day to Carol and Jim (Jamie). The universality of the memories the three of us share are unique to us. Through it all, the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows … we’re still Frank and Margie’s kids. I’m pretty grateful for a life that includes you.