Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Sibs

The baby girl at the next table would not let go of her older sister’s hair, and yet the three-year-old continued to placidly regard her French fries. It took a good amount of disentangling before their mother was able to redirect the infant’s attention to something less threatening to the tranquility of the restaurant.

“You and your sister were exactly like that,” said my mother, watching the sitcom unfold. “Exactly.” She shot the mother a sympathetic glance.

I was the hair puller; the youngest usually are. The agitator, the screamer, the oft-crying, the unemployed. And like many first-borns Julie the Nephewmama serenely endured-- sweeping up the aftermath, brokering parent-to-younger-sibling negotiations, upholding, downshifting. It is more fun to be the hair-puller; it is better for the character to be the phlegmatic French fry consumer, rarely exerting one’s own gravitational pull but serving as the balance to the familial solar system.

Yet as St. Paul tells us, one does not surpass the other in importance. The world requires older brothers and sisters to grow up to become accountants, marry responsibly, produce 2.5 children, keep the family finances on Quicken and mail out the Christmas thank-you notes before New Year’s. These are the souls who turn the world, bear society on the shoulder pads of their careerwear so that the hair-pullers may enjoy the freedom to write bad poetry, fail to eat the ends of the bread loaf, mock Jerry Springer and play Poison too loud. It is a noble way of life and a necessary one. From where I’m sitting (at two AM, in a dumpy computer chair, against the backdrop of the Crocodile Hunter cheerfully yanking a venomous snake out of a tree and entreating us to “CRIKEY HAVE A LOOK AT THIS LITTLE BEAUTY!”) it requires immense courage to arise at the same time five mornings a week, sit for eight hours in a fluorescently lit three-sided cube and come home to unfinished laundry and mortgage payments. I wish I could be more like that.

And yet if I were more like that, if indeed all of us who regularly fail to balance our checkbooks were more like that, there would be nothing but three-sided cubicles and mortgage payments. The earth would go without the Letterman monologue, Pop Rocks, the Mona Lisa, turquoise jogbras and professional wrestling (not, admittedly, an entirely bad thing.) We the flighty provide the workout music for Atlas siblings, pointing out the sweet cool green of the grass that requires cutting, smuggling in the occasional chocolate bar. Raw cookie dough, the Top Ten list, bad ‘80’s music: these are the lovely divine sparks separating us from the ants.

just thinking at:

1 comment:

Dave said...

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