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Slice of Life 16:

Looking back, I may have had a slight case of the, “Jan Brady,” syndrome when I was a kid. I wasn’t spiteful or whiney like Jan, just incredibly awkward like her and I had not one, but a pair of two older “Marshas,” for sisters. I was the fourth born of six. Three girls, three boys. My two older sisters were gorgeous. In every picture, my mom would part their hair on the same side, fasten a bow, most often they would be wearing matching dresses. Bren with her long, flowing auburn locks, and Peggy with her hair that resembled golden silk. “Golden silk,” is not a stretch. Perfect noses. Flawless smiles. Long and slender… The two of them were just beautiful girls. My older brother was a handsome little gentleman himself. Soft curly chestnut hair, a smile that would make any mom just swoon. Awww. They all were.

I would look at family pictures growing up and stare in puzzlement. Understand, by the time I came around in the assembly line, it seems my mom didn’t have time to side part my hair, to fasten the bow. I don’t blame her. She was busy. For this reason, I assume, she cut my hair into a mullet when I six. My sister’s got the long, flowing locks, and I got a scraggly mullet. My closet also became a refuge for hand me downs. I was fine with it. I thought my older siblings were cool, so the trade-off worked in everyone’s favor. Oh. And my nose was broken during my delivery. Yes, during my own birth. So needless to say? I didn’t sport the perfect nose either.

For all these reasons, and more, I felt like I didn’t always quite fit in my family. I was so proud to be a member and the love overflowed, but I always felt like I stuck out like the sore thumb. Or, on worse days, hidden in the shadows of rising stars.

For these reasons and perhaps in part hardwiring, I retracted in my own world. My mom would always kid, “I could leave Brig for hours and know she’d be ok!” (not that she did by the way. She’s great.) Another one I heard, “Well, she’ll never have a problem with ulcers. That little one doesn’t have a care in the world!” Which, I interpreted even then as a euphemism of sorts for- the little one’s a bit spacey. Her head’s in the clouds. And it was.

I could dance for hours in my backroom. My favorite persona was Janet. As the domineering and gorgeously cool Janet, I owned and operated a disco (parent’s juke box). Another frequent favorite? If my Barbies weren’t handy I would take out my chewed gum, place a precise amount on the tip of each finger and tediously style the gumby tresses of my finger folks. Once they were fashioned just right my characters would come to life and a lengthy dramatic performance would ensue. Totally gross. I’m aware. Again, if my Barbie’s were not available I would collect as many as the plastic animal barrettes I could find. I would play Barrette land all day, any day if I could. (side note revelation- Did I even have Barbies? Maybe it was witnessing these examples of imaginative, but questionably pitiful play that drove the parents to finally dole out the cash and buy the poor kid a doll. Likely).

Awakening inanimate objects to life became my daily ritual. Anything and everything came to life. I could wish a soul on my mother’s broom and a personality would emerge.

By the time I was seven or eight, imaginative lala land in full operational swing, something mind blowing happened to this head that drifted among the clouds. I learned how to read. Reading and writing became my saving grace. C.S. Lewis wrote, “We read to know we are not alone.” When I read Shel Silverstein, Maurice Sendek, Roald Dahl, and the like, I knew I belonged there.

Mary Jesus and Joseph. YES. I knew those places. I have sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are. I have gaped into the mouth of a giant alligator and performed dental work. I have walked to where the sidewalk ends … rode in the pockets of big friendly giants. I am a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er. a pray-er, a magic bean buyer. That’s me!

I connected to books in a way I had never known before. I wrote about characters. Inspired, wrote about my own characters. I dreamt about those characters. Empathized with them. Took them on journeys beyond the book- in my mind, throughout my days.

And I still dream. I’m thankful my mother cut my hair in a mullet and left me to my own devices. “We read to know we are not alone,” … because we all do feel alone, in one way or another. Whether it’s in our own family or society as a whole; we are all isolated in certain ways. Reading connects us in a way not comparable with any other. It’s intimate.

It amazes me how the precisely right words will present themselves at just the right time in my life. A certain author. Particular poem, quote, song lyric. Which brings me to now. I love reading the words of everyone participating in this SoL challenge. I love experiencing your worlds, empathizing with you, cheering for you, walking through your memories.

For that reason and much more. To Reading: I salute you. I bite my teeth into you and would play a horn for you if I could. It deserves the honor.

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.
-Dr. Seuss

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4 replies

  1. This was a very special slice. Isn’t it great that you turned out you? Having that magic bean buyer in you truly changes how you see and experience life!

  2. Welp, as Jill told me “you can just shut your computer now and call it a day. you win.” You’re now one of my favorite authors. Yep, right up there with Mauve Binchy and Jody Piccoult. I’m printing this and reading it to a whole bunch of kids at the beginning of next year. It’s perfection – it really is. I’m giving you a standing ovation right now.

  3. I love the flow of this piece. The reflection in the end. The bits of humor throughout. I can connect with your imaginative play, as I had to do that as a child and am grateful for it. It helped build who I am today. This is my favorite piece of yours so far! Brilliant!

  4. I just love how you described your sisters and yourself and what makes you you. I just had this discuss with my students the other day about what makes you, you. This just plays right into that. Great writing!

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