West Leyden is a small town. Only about 1,500 people are here living ordinary, small town lives. The school is not far from my house. We never do it often, but this evening must have been special. My parents have brought me down the street so that I could swing. I didn’t need anyone to push me. I’m not sure if I ever did. The sun is fading fast. It casts a golden hue over everything it’s touching for these last few minutes. My mom is abnormally happy. Dad’s got an arm around her waist, twirling her about. The oddity of it all makes me feel awkward. Displaced.
I kick my legs harder at the knee and imagine doing a full flip on the swing. How crazy that could be. My hair is as long as my legs. I bet it would get caught.
They’re walking together on the pavement, hand in hand. I’d hate to feel judged for my lack of sensitivity, but it’s the first time I remember seeing such gross displays of affection from them. A lot of the time that I’m not right here at this school is spent with my Aunt Joy or my grandparents. Mom works days. Dad works nights. In between they argue about who should or shouldn’t be out drinking with friends.
I have a half sister on my dad’s side. She is ten years older than me. Ecstatic to think I had a gender ally that could teach me all the things I needed to know as a girl, I was somewhat disappointed when it didn’t turn out that way. I’m pretty sure her childhood self, hated my existence as much as my mom disliked hers. Both sides arguing greedily…. Who needs the paychecks more? Who should get child support less? How can someone be so ungrateful?
I remember mom arguing with dad once that “we don’t even have money for Sam to get breakfast cereal, but Amanda got new basketball shoes!”
I didn’t want them to argue about me. Honestly, I can’t even stomach cereal. The milk turns my belly sick. I’m fairly petite for my age and I could go without needing breakfast. Amanda is older, and bigger. She probably needs more things. I don’t play basketball. I bet the shoes are cool though...
I would never hear the story from my parents, and I still haven’t. But the story went that dad left Amanda’s mom for my mom, and to many in town, that wasn’t allowed in this aged out society. Either way, I was too young to ever be valued for my opinion. I never hated Amanda though. I never held bias towards her mom. I understood why people would hurt in different ways than others hurt.
I believe my mom tried…. she just couldn’t let everything go.
I believe dad tried…. he just wasn’t meant to operate that way under immense pressure.
You can’t change people. You’re far better off changing your expectations of them.
I came to understand at about the age of six that Amanda wasn’t going to be my “super close, awesome, big sister”, instead she was just trying to survive her parental drama. I could respect that. There was a huge blow-out during a family camping trip. Mom and dad would argue in the tent over who he took preference to and defended more. I can’t recall all the details, but it would be 15 years before I ever saw Amanda again. Her high school prom picture would sit on the mantel forever. She wore a beautiful, floor length gown and had long dark hair. I imagined how things could’ve been if people weren’t so self-serving and if parents didn’t need to spill toxins into their child’s ears. It’s hard to understand why adults would set their children up with unnecessary dilemmas. We are much more resilient than any of them. We are also less spiteful and petty.
In an alternate set-up Amanda and I could’ve been closer. I thought of her often, and always hoped that she wasn’t sad. I'd always felt like I ruined her expectation of how she pictured her life. For that I was sorry.
A few months after that odd day at the park, my aunt is taking me to the hospital in the near-by city. Mom and dad were already there. Rushing through the parking lot my aunt tells me I have a baby brother. In utter shock at all of this news I try to hide my immense disappointment, but I start to cry my eyes out.
In some sick turn of events this causes my aunt to laugh and tell me it was only a joke. I am indeed a big sister to a little sister. Pride swallows my whole heart. I don’t know if there was ever a greater feeling than this. I will finally get to be the sister I know I can be. Elizabeth is beautiful and healthy. She screams obnoxiously loud, but it’s okay. We’re both new to each other. We are learning. I don’t care where she came from. I smother her with promises. My instinct takes over almost immediately, no one is going to take this one away.