Monday, April 13, 2009

If the peg fits ...

Growing up in my family was ... shall we say ... challenging. I never quite fit in. Four years younger than the sister closest to me in age, the half of the twins who walked, the little girl who gravitated toward Dad because Mom was often occupied by my brother Mike ... those things combined created quite a unique human. You know her as Maggie.

I wanted to wear the dress and climb the tree, play football and dance, sculpt and break things. There wasn't anything I didn't want to try, not much that scared me, and very little I kept my mouth shut about. (Yeah, I know ... some things never change.) I was constantly in trouble, either at home or at school or (more often than not) both. I was Mr. and Mrs. Bieritz's lovely little handful.

Needless to say, there were times when my relationship with my sisters suffered. I wasn't like them. Sure, I wanted to borrow their clothes and talk about boys, but that's really where the similarities ended. Politically they lean to the right (and in some cases, so far to the right they're in another building.) They think I'm a hopeless tree-hugger. They all live within a few miles (and some, within a few steps) of the house we grew up in, while I was a true maverick, moving some 40 miles away. Their strongest relationships are with each other or with folks who are also close to the family, while I have strong and solid family ties with people who aren't related to me. They are princesses; I am ... not.

Family gatherings can be a painful reminder of just how different I am. Usually, my nephew Alex and I end up outside under the basketball hoop (for the record, I kicked his ass in three out of four games of HORSE yesterday) in an effort to just stay out of the way. My participation in dinner conversation is limited - usually I get my talking in after everyone else leaves and it's just me and Dad, who seems to "get" me even though he and I rarely see eye to eye. And I share this not out of self-pity; no, I accepted my position in the family a long time ago. Instead, I wanted to paint a picture so you could understand how much my sister Jenn's actions yesterday shook the very foundation upon which I've built my impression of my family.

As I was getting ready to leave Dad's last night, the phone rang. It was Jenn, wanting to know if I could pop over to her house before I headed home. Well that's easy enough to do, since she lives on acreage that sits directly behind my father's house. So I walked through the woods to my sister's house, thinking she had a recipe or some hotel soap or a pair of shoes she thought I would like. Instead, it was a little plaque that took my breath away.

Now I realize it's goofy; that's our humor. But I've always thought my sisters thought I was crazy for the way I believe in my dreams. I always thought they considered me a bit of a nut because I'm not like them. I thought I was in the way, a necessary evil on holidays. But this simple gesture - a little something to hang on my wall - says to me, "yes, you're different; no, I don't much mind."

It touches my heart in a way I never expected. While I may never make sense to them, it seems that's okay.

Ya know, as long as I don't try the flying thing.

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