Crazy Baby Sister

An old man sat in the corner of our living room on the davenport. I liked his kindly look and the rosy glow of the lamp’s light on the room’s peach-colored wall behind him. Laying down on the floor where he could see me, I began to kick my legs up into the air. Mama stepped into the living room, reached down and patted my bottom as she scolded, “Kathy, quit showing off.”

At two-years of age, I had already come to understand my place in the family. With parents who were 45 years old the year I was born, comic relief was clearly needed. It was a good thing I showed up! I enjoyed entertaining people and making them laugh. As the youngest child in a family of seven children, I had a ready audience.

There were times I didn’t even know I was doing anything funny, but when I realized what was happening, I hammed it up to the hilt. Big words are hard to master for little mouths. My mispronunciations made two of my sisters who were 5 and 7 years older than I was shriek with laughter. When cousins came to visit, they would prompt, “Kathy, say hamburger.”

Rather than trying to say the word correctly, I proudly said, “Hamberger-ger-ger!” I loved the response when I said it wrong. There was absolutely no incentive to say it right!

The older children crowded around me. “Kathy, say davenport.”

Looking up at them I announced, “Damn-port.” Howls followed.

“Um…” Big sister thought hard to remember my dictionary of tongue-twisted words, “Say aluminum.”

As with hamburger, I didn’t know when to stop with this word. I complacently answered, “Aluminum-num-num.” After a few laughs, the older children wandered away to play with their dolls. My shtick was getting old. Clearly, I had to come up with new comic routines!

At the age of nine I was brown-skinned during the summer despite playing mostly under the shade trees in the yard. I wasn’t really fat, but was definitely well filled out. One warm afternoon while sitting on a kitchen chair, I glanced down at my round, firm shorts-clad thigh. Grabbing a marker from the table, I began to draw on it the Armour Star logo that I’d seen on our Easter ham months earlier. Mom struggled hard to not laugh when she sternly told me to wash the ink off my leg.

In my early teens, the sisters who were the closest to my age were now nearing adulthood, yet I could still make them laugh. It was the age of goofy radio songs. Imitating the song, “I Love Onions” by Susan Christie, I made my voice sound like I’d swallowed a gulp of helium and chanted, “An onion is a tuberous vegetable and is a member of the genus Stinkus Delicioso. It was highly prized by the ancient Egyptian pharaohs and their friends and cousins. It causes watering of the eyes and rubefaction of the skin, but is very, very tasty.”

It did my heart good to see my sisters, who were acting so grown-up laugh like kids.

My sisters weren’t the only ones changing. I was no longer the cute little girl. I’d become a gangly, self-conscious teenager. I pondered my identity and place in this world, thinking, “No one on this planet is even remotely like me!” My uniqueness was horrifying.

It took years for me to realize that everyone in this world thinks they have cornered the market on individualism.

After a few more years, I came to realize that like snowflakes, every person is supposed to be different. I’ve come to appreciate the goof-ball status of my childhood and my sense of humor. My late husband Arnie, delighted in the private, humorous comments I liked to whisper into his ear when on an evening out. My sense of ridiculousness is covered by my normal adult behavior most of the time, but like a superman’s blue leotard, it is ready to be revealed and speed out from a phone booth like an airplane whenever I need a laugh.

As I’ve already stated, different is good. Different is even better if we get along with other special snowflakes. Best of all is if you can find a special snowflake that you like enough to form a drift. Arnie, you were that special one for me. Thanks!

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