There Was A Broken Family

We five had cracked and mended and torn connections.  Loyalty given, loyalty betrayed; anger and hurt and love alternated like electrical current.  Mom and dad had a steamy heat turned bitter.  Carole, lived to escape the turmoil.  Helen thrived on stirring the pot, her mimic of mom.  I tried to be good, so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

By the time I went to first grade I was fully accustomed to being alone.  Carole and Helen were  7 and 5 years older than me and rarely included me in anything. We lived on a secluded farm, so I was without playmates.  I had my dog, my mud-pies, my daydreaming.  When we moved to town I enjoyed the company of kids my age, but I hesitated to bring anyone home.  There were too many issues–arguing, yelling, cussing and clutter.  And I didn’t have a bedroom, something everyone had.

I was always embarrassed by my looks.  I had dad’s teeth.   He had the Jolly gap–a space between his front teeth.  Those yellow stub-fangs of his were so prominent, so crude, so abnormal.  I had that same space and it felt like a label of the undesirable,  lower class.  My hair was always a problem–thin, wispy, uncontrolled.  My feet were abnormal too–weak ankles.  The solution was clunky shoes for the “impaired”.  I wore mostly hand-me-downs, which seldom fit my long, skinny form.  All the neighborhood kids had new clothes, new bikes, normal shoes and teeth and of course, their own bedrooms.  They had moms that were happy and energetic and didn’t yell at them for spilling their milk.  Their dads were doctors and teachers and business owners.  My dad sold fish and mom worked in the dress factory.  The conclusions were everywhere, sometimes subtle, sometimes not too.

By high school my self-consciousness had grown.  I enjoyed learning but I wanted to be invisible.  Every Monday morning I stopped in the school office to buy my lunch tickets for the week.  Though the staff seemed friendly, my replies always stuck in my mouth.  They knew who I was.  They knew I was Carole and Helen’s younger sister.  I wasn’t pretty like them.  I wasn’t popular.  I wasn’t active in clubs.  Was she pregnant too? Each day after school I disappeared into my own world of music and dance and  horses.  I got my teeth fixed, but it didn’t solve my problems.

By the time I graduated and left for college, Carole was back home with her two kids.  Helen was a mother and beautician.  I was worn out from trying to make peace between mom and dad.


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