We’re Not Like Other Siblings

Wrestling season is quickly coming to an end.  We pack up our car, and head to the state tournament this weekend.  As I reflect over the season, looking through the photos and talking about the matches of the season, one image is constant.  As my golden boy is toughing it out on the mat, there is always a little blonde sitting on the bleachers only feet away cheering for him.  A girl who has swapped schedules with a coworker to be there, cancelled social plans, or studied late into the night so that she would be able to spare the time the next day.  “Mom, is it weird that I go to all of Jackson’s matches?  All the other siblings are little, sitting on the floor with coloring books, there because their parents forced them to be.”  I always just smile, and thank her for being there.

About a week ago she declared that she wasn’t going to the next tournament.  “I think I’m going to stop going to the tournaments.  I’m the only big sister there, and I don’t even think Jackson cares whether I’m there or not.”  “Why don’t you talk to him before you make a decision?  See what he says.  I’m not even sure he cares whether or not your dad and I are there!”

Jackson strolls in from practice, and Paige shouts from the kitchen, “Go shower and get dressed.  We’re going to dinner, just you and me.  Mom’s paying.”  She smiles over at me, shrugs and says, “You told me we should talk.  He talks better when he isn’t hungry.”  I sighed, rolled my eyes, and handed over my debit card.  “It’s for a good cause Mom.  We’re bonding!”  Jackson runs down the stairs with a wet head and fresh clothes.  I holler after them to eat clean because Jackson is still in season, knowing full well that the odds are good they will eat junk despite my recommendations.

After an hour or so they returned with full bellies and smiles on their faces.  I tentatively asked Paige how it went, bracing myself for the possibility of hurt feelings.  (Jackson is 16, loves himself, and sometimes he fails in the sensitivity department.)  “It went really well.  I told him I was thinking about sitting out a few tournaments because I wasn’t even sure he wanted me there.  I explained that none of the other boys had older siblings that attended the matches.  He told me we weren’t like other siblings, and he wants me to keep coming.”  She casually popped a cookie in her mouth like it was no big deal, shrugged, and began loading the dishwasher.

I couldn’t help but smile.  “You guys aren’t like other siblings.  You know that.”  “I know, Mom, but why?  Why do I love him so much it literally hurts?”  I love and hate these conversations.  I KNOW why these two are so connected.  Paige knows too.  Sometimes I think Jackson doesn’t really understand why he feels the way he does, he just knows something is different.  I start to pick at the kitchen towel in front of me, looking for anything I can look at other than her big blue eyes.  “I know you don’t remember it, but after your dad died, you couldn’t leave a room without your brother following you.  He didn’t understand what was happening, but he was so scared that if he let you out of his sight, you might not come back.  I remember shopping for a couch because I just couldn’t sit on the one your dad had taken naps on.  It hurt too much.  So I am surrounded by fabric swatches, and you tap me on the shoulder and ask if you can run to the bathroom.  I could see the bathroom from where I was sitting.  I told you to go, and off you went.  Your brother was sitting on my lap, and he started crying and screaming.  He kept reaching his arms out for you, and squirming in my arms.  I let him go because I honestly didn’t know what to do.  You had stopped in the middle of the sales floor, just watching, a little perplexed by why your  toddler brother was acting so crazy.  He came running to you.  He reached out his chubby little hand, and you took it.  Just like that he stopped crying.  He couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing you, even for a second.  So no, you guys aren’t like other siblings.  And you never will be.”  She pushed her hair back out of her face, and quickly changed the subject, knowing that if we continued one of us would end up crying.

So Paige, I’m not looking you in the eye now, so I think it’s safe to finish our conversation.  Your brother is sometimes an egotistical jerk.  It comes with being 16.  You remind me often that you too were like that when you were that age.  But I promise you that he not only knows you are there, he WANTS you there.  He never wants you too far from his sight.  That hasn’t changed.  He wants to hear your voice, louder than the others, cheering his name, continuing to be his safe place.  You are the first hug he gives.  I watch as he swings you up and around, secretly a little jealous that he wants your approval first.  But it’s ok.  I understand.  When he jumps out of the car at a college campus in a year or so…Stand still.  He will look back one last time to make sure you’re still in sight.  You will always be your brother’s lighthouse, the safe place in his storm.  He may not say it, but he will look for you on Saturday, and have a secret smile because once again you are there cheering him on.

Pop Tarts, Shopping Baskets and Personal Space

I hate going to the grocery store.  It’s a chore I dread all day, and I cringe when it’s time to walk in after a long day at work.  Yesterday was no exception.  I grabbed my bag, threw it over my shoulder, and dragged myself through those giant sliding doors.  I always get a giant buggy no matter how long my grocery list is.  My family always asks, “Why do we need that big basket?  You don’t have that much on the list.”  “Do you see my giant purse?  Are YOU going to carry it?  If not, then let it ride in this giant buggy, and hush!”  Plus, if we’re being real, I like the feeling of steering the giant vessel, and using it to put space between myself and others.

I start in produce.  I walk around the colorful fruits and veggies in a trance imagining all the beautiful things I could make if only I have any skills in the kitchen.  I keep it simple.  I stroll over to the bagged salad.  Yep, this is about my speed.  I can see the shredded lettuce, but this lady is blocking it with her cart.  The aisles are narrow, and the carts are wide.  I understand that she has nowhere to go.  Maybe if I park down by the grapefruit I can walk over, wedge my right leg in between her buggy and the refrigerated cabinet, stretch my Go Go Gadget arm, and reach the bag.  I attempt this magic trick, feel myself beginning to topple forward, and catch myself on the kale.  The crazy thing is….The lady still hasn’t noticed me!  I have just face planted in the kale. My leg is hooked around her cart like a lifeline holding me to the floor, and she is looking at a flipping eggplant like nothing is happening!  Well forget it!  I’ve made it this far.  I’m grabbing the lettuce, and moving on.  It’s not like it can get any more awkward than it already is!

Next I head out in search of tortilla shells.  Man this aisle is packed!  It’s ok.  Be calm.  These people want to get their stuff and go home just like you do.  Well, all of them but the older couple who has decided to bond over the different types and sizes of tortillas.  “Look at these Glenda!  They’re so little.  What in the world could you put in such a tiny tortilla?!”  “Oh Herman, it doesn’t matter.  Look at how cute they are!  We could put them on tiny plates!”  “Yes, but what ever would we put in them?  Can we get these pretty green ones instead?  I think they have vegetables in them.  That’s what makes them green!”  “But they won’t fit on the tiny plates!  They’re too big!”  Y’all, I feel my patience beginning to fail me.  I don’t CARE if they fit on tiny plates or if they’re green!  I just want to get my tortillas, and move on!

Eventually I make it past tortillas and on to cereal.  A toddler is having a Pop Tart melt down.  “But Mom, I’ve been good!  Can I PLEASE have these Pop Tarts?!”  I’m trying not to laugh because I know what it’s like to have this conversation with a toddler, but he is adorable.  Heck, I wanna buy him the Pop Tarts!  “Trent, I’m getting you cereal.  Now go put those back!”  He turns his tiny little body around and begins to walk back to where the Pop Tarts are shelved.  The mom turns back to speak to her other little one, and Trent throws those Pop Tarts down with such a thud that I am certain every last one broke.  I can’t keep it together anymore.  This kid gets exactly how I feel about the grocery store.  As those Pop Tarts slide across the floor, bumping into things along the way, and coming to rest just inches from my feet I bust into a fit of the giggles.  I know this is poor grownup behavior on my part, and I do a Uturn and head in the opposite direction.  I will not let that mama see me laugh, or share Trent’s angry secret with her!  I didn’t need cereal that bad anyway!

On to yogurt.  I chose this particular grocery store because they have the best yogurt selection in town.  I look forward to choosing these tasty treats that I will use in order to trick my pallet into thinking I am having a sweet treat.  I cruise on up to the cold case and begin to peer at the flavors.  As I’m grabbing an older lady begins shouting at me.  “Do you think you are the only person in this store?  You must think you are special.  You need to move and let other people buy yogurt.”  The wheels on my buggy just stopped turning.  I just parked!  It’s not like I just spent the last ten minutes guarding the dairy case!  What is she talking about?!  “Girls like you, in your yoga pants and fancy sneakers just think you own the yogurt aisle, don’t you?”  I am at a loss for words.  First…I haven’t been called a girl in so long, so thanks for that!  Next, where are my freaking witty come backs?!  I loathe snarky women like these, yet I can’t think of a single thing to say!  Ahhh….I can only smile as I think of the fire in the belly of my Pop Tart angel.  I grab as many yogurts as I can fill my arms with, drop them in my buggy, and my yoga pants and I strut right past her with a smirk and a swish of the ponytail.

I’ve just about survived the grocery store.  I haven’t killed anyone, broken anything, or had a melt down on the wine aisle.  Time to get in line.  I am notorious for picking the wrong long.  It happens Every. Single. Time.  I eyeball the lines looking for the shortest one, and let out a deep sigh when I realize the best option is with the grumpiest checker.  The last time I was in her line she yelled at me about my coupons, ripped open my banana bag to get a better look at the sku, and threw my eggs toward the bagger like it was a sporting event.  No matter.  I just have a few things.  How bad can it be?

When I am checking out without my helpers I usually stand in front of my cart so I can better reach the contents nestled inside.  I begin placing my beloved yogurts on the belt, and a man walks up behind my buggy.  He is standing so close that I wonder if he is about to help me.  He is clearly in my bubble.  Ugh!  I ease my buggy up a little.  He follows…I’ve already used all my deep breathing techniques with Yogurt Lady, so I’m not sure how much longer I can hold it together.  With my groceries slowly moving toward the checker, I flatten myself against the candy impulse items, and shimmy my way back to the place where you push the buggy.  I grip the push handle until my knuckles are white, feeling the breath of the man behind me hot and sticky as he continues to invade my bubble.  I whip out my debit card, determined to pay without looking backwards or sideways. The checker asks, “Is that all?”  My cart is empty.  Does she expect me to squat and lay an egg while I check out?!  “Yes.  That’s it.”  By now Space Invader is so close to me we could hold hands.  He places his tiny plastic basket on the floor next to him.  “You give me that!  You can’t have it!”  As I watch the cash register spit my receipt out, the cashier is yelling at Space Invader.  “I can put the basket back.  It’s no trouble.  Can I do that please?”  “No!  You have to give me the basket!  You don’t have a choice.  Give it to me now!”  She shoves my receipt into my hand as she plays tug of war with her other hand.  I dash to the car daring anyone to hit me as I go.  Next time I think I’ll just order take out.