I wasn't going to write today. I was busy. Had a lot to do. Didn't get ready for bed 'til late. And, frankly, just didn't feel like it. But, as I was lying in bed, winding down and thinking about how relieved I was that my husband was just kidding when he texted me a picture of two goats with the message, "And I got one to keep at the house!," another thought crept into my mind. It was of a conversation Jen and I had about 3 weeks ago.
She called one night with a sense of urgency in her voice as I was about 4 episodes deep into a House Hunters marathon. So instead of telling her I'd call back after Katie and Ron decided between the 'fixer-upper' and 'the one with the great view,' I hit mute and listened in. She was telling me she had the perfect project for me and, if I did well enough, I might even make it big-time. She explained that Matt's grandmother had lived a fascinating life. So extraordinary, in fact, that her life-story would make an excellent biography. "And you, Lauren, are just the person to write it!" She said it with such conviction that I almost believed her. I told her I'd think about it, and the idea had not reentered my mind until tonight. And I got to thinking, yes, Matt's grandmother has lived an exciting life. That is undeniable. But then I thought, you know, Jennifer has lived a pretty awesome life herself... I thought back over some of the especially good stuff that I would put in a book if given the opportunity to write one about her. But one instance kept coming to mind. It's definitely not intriguing enough, or long enough for that matter, to be an entire book but it could be a short story, and it certainly has a moral. Read on, if you'd like...
Growing up, Jennifer and I were like oil and vinegar. Not oil and water, oil and vinegar. We really didn't mix all that well (think Newman's Own Raspberry Vinagerette salad dressing before you shake it up) but when we did, it was truly something special. Another fact to note: I was an extremely shy kid. Now I'm not talking about the kind who won't talk to adults or the one who would rather die than ask another kid for a turn on the see-saw. Of course I did those things. Or rather, didn't do them. No, I was the kind who would get downright sick if I had to do anything outside of my comfort zone- which, back then, was limited to just our house on East Jefferson Street.
Well, low and behold, one day I got invited to a birthday party. A boy's birthday party. At the skating rink. And I didn't know any other kids that were going except, yep, boys. My nightmare. My mom was making me go. I guess she was beginning to worry that I would become a hermit or live with her and my dad for the rest of my life. I cried. I begged. I pleaded. I faked illness. I all but ran away from home. Jen, witnessing my distress over the death sentence my mother had issued me, nobly stepped in and did the unthinkable. "I'll go with you, Lauren. It won't be so bad if I'm there with you, will it? At least you'll have me and even if the boys are mean to you, you know I'll be nice." Well that did it. It was all I needed. The weight of the world had been lifted. If she was going with me, then I could definitely manage this boy-birthday-nightmare thing.
We arrived at the party on time, strapped on our roller skates, and eased around the rink. We hadn't even made it half way around before we decided we'd better sit down. The boys were skating way too fast and if we got knocked over... Well, it just had disaster written all over it. So, we took our seats on the bench and were happy just to watch the boys try to out-do one another from our own quiet corner of the rink. But then, the disaster we hadn't planned for showed up. A couple of boys noticed us sitting on the bench by ourselves. One of them happened to be the big-shot birthday boy. (Side note: Remember how cocky the birthday boy/girl could sometimes be? I mean, really, you just made it another year. Does that warrant this exorbitant display of arrogant obnoxiousness?) So they skated as fast as they could toward us and slammed their skates against the bumper right at our feet. The teasing commenced. After a few general 'sissy-pants' remarks, they decided to zero-in on Jennifer.
She has worn glasses for a grand total of five years in her life and this happened to be during one of those years. They pointed and laughed at her 'four-eyes.' An insult they'd heard one of their older brothers (a genius, no doubt) say. I hadn't even heard that term before but it wasn't the words they were saying, it was the WAY they said them. So condescending, demeaning and heartless. And they were two years younger than she was! I remember time felt like it absolutely stood still. The only people in the world were me, Jen, and these two blubbering baboons. My heart was racing, and I couldn't really see straight. I wanted so badly to stand up and punch both of them right in the guts. I wanted to tell them how ugly they were, how mean they were, how stupid they were. But I didn't. I didn't punch them. I didn't yell at them. I just sat there by her. And she sat there by me. It's what she'd promised me she'd do. Come along with me and make it better.
She has always been that selfless, that loyal, that compassionate. But I have not always been that cowardly. I made up my mind after that birthday party that I would never let anyone be ugly to one of my sisters again and let it go ignored.
So there. There's my short story about my sister doing a pretty remarkable thing on a pretty unremarkable day. There's a moral in there somewhere, maybe even a few, depending on who's reading it. But the lesson I took away from it was- Stick by your sister, even when it hurts... And punch the obnoxious birthday boy in the guts.