TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE DISCOMFORT OF TWEENAGER-NESS
So the final stop for my sister and me in our parentless adventure was Aunt Sis and Uncle Ralph’s house. Even though we spent the entire time with family, the trip was still enlightening. The most important lesson I learned was that not everyone did things the way my mother did. That’s probably not the goal my parents had for the trip, but I’d say it had a whole lot to do with this person I have become – and thankfully I like me a whole lot better than I did that girl back in 1968.
Back to the Issue of Favorites
I confess, for five years I was the star in my own life. As an only child I had the attention of my parents and I was just precocious enough to be pretty popular with everyone else. Then along came Susan. Any new baby upsets the old balance of a home, but try bringing home a sickly child who’s virtually allergic to every form of food and is constantly hungry. The situation was pretty loud and stinky. Add a head of red hair to the mix and I virtually disappeared off the face of the earth.
At home I was suddenly the big sister. That job was a lot harder than my previous position. Not only had I lost my spotlight, but I was supposed to have some sort of affection for this screaming, smelly intruder. What’s more, I was suddenly faced with words like responsibility and chores. Mom would say things like, “See if you can keep her quiet while I go fix a bottle.” Keep her quiet? How was I supposed to do something no adult had yet figured out to do for more than 60 seconds at a time.
The most galling part of the experience to me was that she got the seat in the grocery cart. Whereas in the past I’d been pretty happy to go anywhere with anyone, after Susan was born I dreaded going to the grocery store. “Oh look at the redhead!” That’s what everybody said. EVERYBODY! I cringed to hear it. What was I? Chopped liver? I might as well have been.
Things Get More Challenging
By the time of this 1967 journey I had gotten over my initial resentment. It’s hard to resent someone who worships the ground you walk on and my little sister has always been one of my biggest fans. However, I was at a very awkward stage on the road to adulthood. For one thing the move from Georgia to Texas had been tough. I’d been in the center of cool in Augusta, but whatever had made me cool there had not translated to Dallas. I was an outsider.
I wasn’t exactly the little cutie I had once been, either – and I was painfully aware of it. I seemed to get taller and thinner all the time, so my clothes hung on me like a paper-doll’s. My short, thick hair had tons of natural wave and curl when long, straight hair was the rage. I wore these awful cat-eye glasses which were perfect in Augusta, but all wrong in Dallas. To compensate for the Southern Drawl I’d been so mercilessly kidded about, I’d started talking in a nervous hyper-speed and even when I really wanted to, I couldn’t figure out how to shut up. I desperately needed confirmation that I was OK, but no one was giving it to me.
On this parentless vacation, every experience, save one, seemed to underline my unworthiness. I’d been a fish out of water at Uncle Al’s. Their rambunctiousness was completely foreign to me. My cousin Doylene had completely eclipsed me, seeming positively swan-like to my gawkiness. I arrived at Aunt Sis’ house knowing that Uncle Ralph was going to shower Susan with affection and I’d be lucky to get a stiff lecture from Aunt Sis.
Things turned out better than I thought they would. Come back next week and I’ll tell you why.