I stared sadly at my reflection in the mirror. Why didn’t I look normal, like other people? A huge pimple on my chin positively glowed. It didn’t help that I’d been pinching it. Guiltily, I remembered Mom telling me not to do that.
My wispy, baby-soft hair laid flat against my scalp. How I hated my hair!
What I hated the most about my appearance, though, was my body. I felt fat, awkward and overly-developed. When I was 12 years-old and in the sixth grade, I developed the body of a middle-aged lady. Mom told me that it would stream-line as I got older. I wondered when that was going to happen. Here I was, 15 years-of-age and still looking like a circus-side-show misfit.
All six of my siblings were older than me. Each one was good-looking and had style. I admired how they dressed, the colors they each seemed to prefer. Mom told me to stop comparing myself to them, to be patient. She seemed to expect her ugly-duckling daughter would soon transform into a swan.
My sister Mary, seven years older than me, had recently graduated from college. One week later she came home from a trip to Stratford and announced that Saint Joseph grade school had hired her to teach first grade. I was excited and happily looked forward to going back to sharing a bedroom with her as we had in the past. Then she surprised me with her second announcement, “I’m going to rent the top floor apartment in the old convent. I don’t have a driver’s license yet. This way I don’t need anyone to ferry me to and from school. The old convent is only half a block from the school.”
Hardly believing my ears, I questioned to get clarification, “You’re going to live in the same apartment that Reit lived in with her little boys while Fritz was in Viet Nam?” Everyone in the room nodded.
It made me feel better knowing that although I wouldn’t have Mary home all the time, I would have fun sleepovers with her to look forward to. Preparing the apartment became fun. She needed lamps, bedspreads, curtains and silverware. Mom had extra dinnerware. Some of the things Mary needed, like appliances and some furniture came with the apartment.
The colors I saw my sister gravitating to repeatedly were jewel-tone blues and greens. The bedspread and curtains she bought had lovely swirls of both colors. My sister looked svelte and dignified wearing her new teacher’s outfits; mostly jumpers, skirts and tops, again many in greens and blues.
On my first weekend sleepover with Mary that fall, the air was warm as a summer day. All the apartment windows were open and the curtains fluttered in the breeze. We cooked a few things we liked to eat, but agreed that later we’d walk to a small café in town for a banana split.
Mary and I were the only ones in the café when we sat down at the counter and ordered. The waitress turned to make our banana splits. For a few moments she looked around, then suddenly, without a word to us, walked out the café’s backdoor. Through the window I watched her walk into Diermiers, the small grocery store next door. A moment later she came back holding a bunch of bananas. Mary and I looked at each other and laughed.
Many years have passed since that lovely fall afternoon, but I remember with great fondness that day Mary and I spent together. I don’t remember suddenly turning into the swan Mom expected, however. Perhaps I just came to accept the way I look. To this day though, whenever I see the colors of jewel-tone blues and greens together, they make me think of my sister Mary. I love the colors and still think they look sophisticated, glamorous and totally grown-up.