July 31, 2016

the middle

Dealing with a birthday five short days after Christmas has always driven me nuts.  My special day has always been riddled with combo gifts, which is of course preferable to the also common no-gift-at-all.  Couple that issue with the impossibility of hosting a celebration at the pool in the dead of winter, and my dreams of achieving an awesome birthday evaporate as rapidly as snow melts on an unseasonably warm winter day.

Not only did my birth stink from a calendar perspective, but my arrival into a family with two older sisters was far from ideal.  With hardly enough time to settle into the family, the addition of two brothers the two consecutive years preceding my birth created an undesirable birth order ordeal.  Like it or not, I grew up a middle child with a birthday that not only landed right after Christmas, it now landed a few days after the second coming of Jesus . . . my Irish-twin brother. 

My older sisters' friendship was solidified before I even arrived on the scene.  They were exactly two years apart, and have always been close.  Our closest relatives, produced a girl cousin in between my two sisters.  Their close knit three-amigo relationship left little room for a pesky younger sister to infiltrate.  I grew accustomed to being excluded from roller skating outings, cousin sleep overs, and trips to the movie theaters.  I was told repeatedly that my age interfered with my inclusion.  Girl-cousin's two brothers attended baseball games and played lengthy games of running bases with my two brothers despite their even greater age difference, so the age argument left me scratching my head. 

With two years and four months between my next oldest sister and I, my family had a tendency to lump me in with my closer-in-age brothers.  As a result, my brothers played with me more frequently than my sisters did.  I longed to be included with my sisters, especially when my sisters invited friends over.  That just wasn't possible.  In order to play with my brothers, they assigned me the task of acting as the most undesirable character in whatever game we were playing.  When we played cowboys and Indians, I was automatically the bandit.  I was expected to assume the role of the bad guy by hiding out behind trees.  If either of them wandered past, I lunged out at them and chased them around the yard.  If I dared complain, my Irish-twin brother coldly threatened to release me from my duty of playing with them. 

The stories of when Mr. Irish-twin was born developed into folklore in our home.  Shortly after my birth, my organized, controlling, CPA father decided that he and my mother needed to change their breeding plan.  Rather than birth a child every other year, my Dad felt it was important to attempt to create a baby during the 'in-between' years.  He assured Mom that since the every-other-year thing had landed them three consecutive girls, this was their best chance at introducing a boy to their brood.  Their plan worked, and a few days after Christmas less than a year after I was born, my Irish-twin brother arrived.  My Mom's sister, mother of Girl-cousin who was my sisters' bestie, agreed to host a birthday party for me since Mom ended up still being in the hospital when I turned one.  My dad's parents had been caring for my sisters and I while my mother was hospitalized.  Back in the early 70's giving birth led to a lengthy week long hospital stay, so watching us was a big commitment. 

Grandma was a worry wart by nature.  She was troubled by my quick departure from the babyhood throne.  In order to compensate for what she perceived as my loss, she fed me - nonstop.  I guess you could say that she invented comfort food.  When my folks came to collect my sisters and I, the hood of my snowsuit no longer fit around my incredibly chubby face.  Grandma had overfed me all week and the results were visible. 

During the birthday party hosted by my Aunt, the adults plopped me on the floor in the middle of the scratchy, braided, wool area rug in my Aunt's basement.  Not exactly an early bloomer, I had showed no signs of walking.  The adults were presumably nearby, but while they were involved in conversation my Girl-cousin's younger brother who was a year and a half older than me approached me and took advantage of my sitting-duck status.  What I did to provoke him remains a mystery.  I can only assume I touched a toy that was within an arm's reach of my position on the rug.  Before any of the adults knew what was happening, he hauled off and punched me in the face.  The resulting shiner rounded out my less than cute and cuddly appearance.  The transformation I underwent during Mom's week long hospital stay shocked my folks.  My gargantuan size and blackened eye differed greatly from the perfect package the Irish-twin brother portrayed as he was cradled in their arms.

I spent much of my childhood begging my folks for a dog.  I felt I would benefit from a loyal playmate, who cared little about my gender or my age.  My middle child syndrome was interfering with my ability to gel with any of my siblings.  If anyone took sides, their close-knit brother or sister popped up to support them.  I had no one.  No one stuck up for me.  No one had my back.  I had to fend for myself and beg to be included in anything.  I didn't even have anyone to share my room.

The room thing changed when I was in about 3rd grade.  One day my folks announced that they felt it was time for my oldest sister to have her own room.  I moved into the room with my next oldest sister, and began to sleep in the matching canopy bed that had belonged to my two sisters.  A few nights later, a noise coming from my old room woke me up.  I stumbled from my new room rubbing my eyes.  Next door in my old room my parents struggled to control a tape measure.  They apologized for waking me and sent me back to bed.  I later learned that they were preparing for my oldest sister's new bedroom set.  I had asked for years to sleep in a bedroom set that hadn't previously been owned by my grandparents.  Now I realized that they had ousted me from my room because they collected antiques.  They hoped to find an antique set for my room.  Knowing that I couldn't be trusted with anything so fancy, they chose to swap my sleeping arrangements with those of my oldest sister.

My story continues over the years with similar situations.  Twin-brother was allergic to pets, so I couldn't get owning a dog I could bond with was out of the question.  Oldest sister constantly criticized me for copying her talented artwork.  No one explained to her that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so the animosity festered.  I was sandwiched between my parents' two smartest offspring.  When one was being praised for achieving amazing grades, accolades to the other smarty pants came in the blink of an eye.  Both of my brothers enjoyed athletic success and their sporting events quickly became the focal point of our family.  Although I was the most athletic of the three sisters, because neither of the older girls showed any promise in this department, no one encouraged me to 'just do it' until any hope I had of developing into a contributing member of a basketball team became a favorite family joke.

Of course I wouldn't trade my family for the world.  My position in the family may still frustrate me, but in the end my middle child status forced me to become who I am today.  I don't let people push me around.  I make friends easily.  Most importantly my sense of humor is as sharp as a tack, because I have learned to find humor in most situations. 

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