Someone’s Getting Older (and it’s not me)
Today is my oldest sister’s birthday. She’s now the magical Medicare number.
She seems to be taking it pretty well. I, on the other hand, am taking it rather poorly.
It’s unnerving to have a sister on Medicare. It’s okay for my Mom to be on Medicare. But my sister?
Medicare has always been my euphemism for OLD.
I tell myself that my sister is so much older than I. When I was born Christine was three-and-a-half going on forty.
She was always so grown-up to me.
My mother says she can hardly remember Christine as a baby. When Claudia was born, Mom called Christine from the hospital, and Chris, then fifteen months old, carried on a conversation and sang – “Somebody’s Coming To Our House” – a song my grandmother taught her about the new baby.
In a family of smart people, my sister is brilliant.
I don’t remember a report card that wasn’t all As, or a class ranking less than first. And unfortunately for Claudia and me, a teacher who didn’t wish we were a bit more Christine and a bit less “us”.
I envied her brains. Still do. (And her cheekbones.)
For all her brilliance, she was always modest about it. If I were that smart, I’d be bragging to strangers every day….(Oh wait, I have a blog. I brag to strangers every day as a hobby.)
Chris was a serious kid. She read constantly. I coveted the books she read, but she was adamant that her books were too ‘mature’ for me. That was all I needed to hear. I surreptitiously read whatever she left lying around. Paragraph by paragraph, I ‘snuck-read’ every book she had – whether I understood it or not. I read ‘The Member Of The Wedding” and “Catcher In The Rye’” five minutes at a time.
Chris had a strict sense of Fairness, which included a list of privileges based on age. She relished the power of being the oldest. She especially demanded adherence to a hierarchy of bedtimes.
She was the boss of us all, including, sometimes, my parents.
Whereas Claudia devoted herself to making me laugh, Christine was more apt to make me cry. And I cried easily. And often. I don’t think I was much of a challenge for Christine.
I don’t remember playing with her too much. Not without me running off in tears anyway.
But I remember one day. We were playing with our paper dolls. We used to make paper dolls ourselves by cutting up the fashion photographs from an old Montgomery Ward catalog.
Claudia had a paper doll that had a very serious expression.
“I don’t like to smile,” Claudia said, speaking for the doll, “because I am afraid bugs will fly into my mouth.”
I howled with laughter.
“Hi,” said Christine’s doll to mine. “What’s your name?”
“Mary,” I answered. “I was named for Mother Mary, so I am full of grace.”
“My name is Cynthia,” Christine said, “so I am full of sin.”
And I wet my pants.
Happy Birthday, Chris. Thanks for making me laugh instead of cry.