Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sibling Differences

(This is a repeat of one of my favorite blogs, originally posted last February)

Ask anybody and they will tell you that there are people on the branches of their family tree exactly like my Aunt Gloria.   No children, loveless marriage, obsessed with her dog, martini drinker, snobbishly passionate about art, ballet, and orchestra, and unable (or unwilling) to relate to anyone under the age of 16.

Until I reached early adulthood, I never quite knew if my Aunt Gloria realized I existed.   Technically my great-aunt, (my grandfather's sister), she and her husband George were a permanent fixture at  holiday dinners.  After planting the obligatory welcome  kiss on my cheek (which I always tried to wipe off without her seeing), she only had eyes for one - just one - of my parent's three older sister Bev.

Something about my sister's personality captivated Aunt Gloria, and a result, Bev became the lucky recipient of her attention.   At the time, I told myself it didn't matter, that my aunt was old and snobby and crabby and that I didn't want to talk to her anyway.

My brother Steven, six years my junior, didn't seem to care.  But to me, it really did matter...

It mattered a lot.

She liked Bev better than me, and, not understanding why, in the mind of a painfully shy preteen girl....I came to the only rational conclusion I could at the time.....I must not be good enough.

As an adult, I can now look back and not fault my sister at all for being on the receiving end of my aunt's affection.  And in fact, in the waning years of her life, I reconnected with Gloria, and I feel blessed that, before she passed away, she had the chance to meet my 5-year old daughter Melissa (now 16).

Gloria treated my sister different than me because quite simply, she is different from me, just as all siblings have those remarkable, unique characteristics that set them apart.  As adults, we develop a deep love for our siblings, and celebrate our differences, as I have certainly done with both my brother and sister.  But as children, in most families, sibling rivalries abound, leading to jealousy and hurt only made worse when an adult who should know better showers one sibling with more love than another.

Like my Aunt Gloria.

Fortunately, as a mother, I have not had to cope with the pain of witnessing my own daughter suffer this kind of emotional confusion when adults favor one sibling over another.  I inherited my beautiful step-daughter Jessica when she was in the throes of her teen years.  However, by the time her sister Melissa came along, Jessica had entered young adulthood, living a life of her own.  My daughters, though so incredibly close, never lived under the same roof, and the two decade span between them keeps them immune from typical sibling battles.

Not so for my dear friend Angelica's sons Chris, 16 and Brandon, 13.   Incredibly close in age and with each other, they could not be more different in personality.  Recently, they told me about a negative experience that brought back memories of my own childhood, and my Aunt Gloria.

In response, I gave Chris words of support that I wish someone had shared with me. I told him, "Brandon is awesome because he's Brandon.  You are awesome because you are you, and don't ever change who you are because the people that come into your life who matter will love you for who you are."

Indeed, I speak from experience.  I have long since grown out of my painful shyness, yet the fundamental personality traits that were inherent in that preteen girl who sat ignored by her aunt at family dinners are still very much a part of me.  Thankfully, my wonderful husband Bob accepts  all of those traits.  He loves me for who I am.

So to my beautiful, talented Melissa who I love with all my heart, and to every child who has ever felt less than wonderful about themselves, I shout from the rooftops, "You are wonderful, you are awesome, don't ever change who you are!"

                                      Me with my wonderful siblings Steven and Bev!

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Catching Snowflakes on Your Tongue

I originally posted this in February, 2012.  However, in honor of our first snowfall of the season (9.4 inches in my southern NJ town) I thought it would be fitting to post it again! Enjoy!

After four weeks of festive frivolity, December eventually fades away, leaving January in its wake.  There’s a deep reluctance to spend, a strong desire to diet, and the cruel realization that the days are too short, the sun is scarce, and the bitter cold air bites like a knife.

Then, when all hope seems lost, I wake up one morning to see the landscape transformed by flakes of white powder that now cover nearly every outdoor surface.   This fleeting moment of beauty is made all the more wonderful by one simple fact…it is Saturday.  No need to drag myself out of bed early to shovel the walk and brush off the car so that I can navigate the treacherous roads to work.  I can lie in bed, relax, and enjoy.

Sadly, I know it will not last.  The temperature will slowly inch higher by the few degrees needed to turn fancy white flakes into boring drops of rain.  But until that transition takes place, I look out the window and relish the memory of another winter day, 13 years earlier.

My reaction to the snow on that weekday morning was quite different that the peaceful reaction I feel today.  I had to wake, shower, dress, get my three year old daughter Melissa (who is now 16) up, dressed, and fed.  Then I cleaned off my car, came back inside, and stuffed my little pumpkin into her coat, boots, gloves, hat, and scarf.   Finally, harried, and frustrated, I struggled to get my little girl and all of her winter coverings to fit into the car seat.

We drove to the day care center without incident.  Melissa sat silently in the back seat, watching the snowflakes fall in earnest.  We arrived.  I parked, and anxiously glanced at my watch.  Yes, today, I would certainly be late for work.   I unhooked the car seat and helped her out, and with, perhaps, a bit too much edginess to my voice, encouraged her to move faster. 

We started to walk towards the entrance to the day care center when suddenly, she stopped.  "Now what?" I thought, again glancing at my watch.  She looked at me, then tilted her head up to look at the snow, and said..............

“Mommy, I can catch the snowflakes on my tongue.”

I came to a dead stop.  Thoughts of traffic and work and being on time no longer existed.  Nobody had ever told my beautiful, sweet little girl about the simple pleasure of catching snowflakes on her tongue.  She had figured it out all on her own.   In her innocence, she reminded me that sometimes, life’s most precious moments come at unexpected times, and you have to stop and smell the roses, or in our case, stop and catch the snowflakes, as it were.

I took her hand, looked up at the sky and held out my tongue.  Together, we just stood there, catching snowflakes.  I’m not sure how much time passed, or how many flakes landed in my mouth.  I do know that once we decided to move on, my daughter’s face, nearly hidden under the hat and scarf, had lit up with delight, and I became much more relaxed, the prospect of being late no longer mattered.

As time goes by, there are so many wonderful moments with Melissa that touch my heart.  Some I will remember, some will fade away.  But a snowy January morning, when a three year old girl experienced the simple pleasure of catching snowflakes on her tongue for the very first time, will stay with me forever.

My 3-year old daughter Melissa and I enjoy a snowy day, winter, 2001

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