Always Second Best (AKA Always the Bridesmaid and Never the Bride)

imagesI can remember being second for as long as I can remember; I was born second in my family, for starters.  There was never a chance for me to be “the favorite” anything to anybody; there was nothing special about me, so I spent my life wanting to be “the first” or the favorite of somebody.

Many times in my life, there has been somebody who was number one to me; that special person who was a favorite aunt or uncle, or the one I would think of before anybody else.   Each time I was married, the husband du jour was number one in my life; I tried to make certain he knew he was more important than anybody else was.

Conversely, my husbands have not responded in kind; they have been narcissistic, and more concerned the children knew they were loved than preserving a relationship with me.  I actually had the conversation about my desire to come first in our marriage with my last husband; he found me to be selfish and immature.  So goes my last divorce.

***

I have been spending the holidays with my uncle; I suppose I always thought of him as my “second favorite” uncle; but I have never said it aloud.  My other favorite uncle is one whom I have not spent much time with since I was very young; I have simply held those memories fondly.

The other night I overheard him on the phone talking to a friend; he was explaining my visit and he described me as being his “second favorite niece”.  He said it without one hint of irony or hesitation; juts flatly stated the truth.  Second.  I was stunned.

I have no idea who number one is; however, I suppose it does not matter.  He is only second to me as well, why should I expect to be any higher on his list of favorites.

The realization that I was once again second left me feeling cold; I would have almost felt better if I had missed the mark by six or seven.  I obsessed over which cousin is better than me enough to be the favorite, and why.  Is she less talkative?  Smarter?  Does she play a better game of Scrabble?  Live closer?  Visit more often?

Finally, I have resigned myself to being second place, the runner-up.  I imagine when the time is right; I will be the favorite to someone…

When I enter the world of the three-dimensional people and Technicolor…

Internet Friend

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I had a friend on the Internet,

One I will not soon forget.

He gave me advice,

We volleyed and served.

Then one day he disappeared,

It was obvious that I no longer deserved…

I should have known after all these years

Not to look forward,

It only leads to tears.

Somehow I let down an invisible wall,

Someone came in and I let them play ball.

***

Now it is over…

And, imagine that…

It has left me feeling …

Of all things…

F L A T

Songs with Misunderstood Lyrics – Update

imagesI know this is not like me, but I had to share this; yesterday for Christmas, one of my uncle’s received an iPad, (which he kept calling an iPod), and while my cousins were teaching him how to use it, they were looking up funny videos, it reminded my other uncle about something he wanted to show me today.

This is what he wanted to show me – it was about a song with very misunderstood lyrics (very apropos considering the blog I recently posted):

Family Ties

imagesSo this is Christmas, I thought to myself, looking around the room at cousins I had not connected with for almost three decades.  I wasn’t certain what to expect when I invited myself to spend a few weeks with my uncle and he suggested we visit another uncle and my cousins for Christmas Day.

While I have always felt like an outsider in my family because they thought I felt I was too good for them, or better than them, when I really just wanted to escape; my mom has always felt as if she was the outcast in her family.  Her three brothers were all professionals who went to college, purchased homes, and traveled the world; conversely, my parents didn’t finish high school, moved their family around not very close to our cousins, and I did not see them after I was 10 except the rare business trip when my oldest cousin would breeze through town; twice maybe.

Growing up, I heard about my cousin’s adventures; one traveled to Australia to play soccer and got to go watch the Olympics with his dad; one studied for a year abroad in Spain; they all spent summers taking swimming lessons and going to camp; all three of the girls had big, beautiful weddings with white flowing wedding dresses, pictures on the beach, their blonde tresses flowing in the wind; there were trips to foreign countries, too numerous to name; ski vacations with their friends to the family cabin in the mountains; they were everything our family was not.

As adults, I had heard their lives were just as spectacular; much different than the disaster mine had been.  Each one was successful, happy; the girls married lawyers and other professionals; one of the boys married a very successful executive for a major network and owns a house overlooking Sea world; they own houses, have blonde haired blue-eyed children who adore them; they have loving spouses; and, they love their parents and are an intact family unit.

Needless to say, I was somewhat intimidated to visit for the holiday, even if it was only one day.  I had not seen them in years, but they all knew what my life had been like, up to and including all of the latest family drama.

Having already spent Christmas Eve with my uncle catching up and making the traditional secret family bread; we headed up the mountain early Christmas morning to visit my other uncle and my cousins.  Everybody would be there except two of my cousins, one of the twins, and the younger girl; however, the cousin I had been closest to when we had been young was going to be there along with her husband and kids.

When we walked in the door, I was overwhelmed by the warm hugs and welcomes; I was introduced to the spouse and girlfriend of my cousin K and M respectively, and reintroduced to my cousin B’s wife A whom I had met in 2001.  I barely recognized my cousins, but they warmed me and graciously invited me into their parent’s home.

There were children running all over the place opening gifts, screaming, playing, and taunting each other; it was after all, Christmas morning.  I went into the kitchen and greeted my uncle B while he was making a big breakfast for everyone; then turned around and saw my aunt P.  It was a crazy and fun madhouse.

As everyone settled in, my cousin’s K and B and Aunt P stood in the kitchen drinking mimosas cooking and catching up; they wanted to hear some stories about my life both as a child and as an adult.  I told them story after story; they were not surprised, they were somewhat saddened, though.  While my aunt knew we had a difficult life growing up, some of the stories were beyond what she saw as an outsider.

Later, my cousin K and I sat and talked for hours; she listened as I told her my woeful tale of feeling disconnected and flat, of not being able to love.  She looked at me with tears in her eyes; she stood up and hugged me, warning me to tread lightly with my relationship so I don’t end up alone.  We talked about how many times I had been in the area and had never seen or called anybody in the family for the past 20 years; she implored me not to continue the behavior.

K stood up and hugged me and I let her.

I felt incredibly warm and accepted by them, although I missed my family; my girls, my mother, sisters and brother.  The day was good, and by the time I left, I was no longer intimidated by them; they were truly no different from me.  We all embraced and said goodbye, I promised to keep in touch.

Before I left, I went to the restroom; my cousin’s 4 year-old boy was on the stairs, I asked how his Christmas was, he eyed me suspiciously and said, “I don’t like you.”  So it goes, so it goes.

I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…

imagesSo, it’s that time again; I am flying tomorrow, so with my normal paranoia of dying in a fiery plane crash, I want to share a few little-known secrets about me.

***

My whole life, my family has always thought of me as a narcissist who has wanted to get away from the family as soon as I could; they view me as a stuck-up snob who is ashamed of my roots.  I disagree, but I tire of constantly defending myself in a losing battle.

When I was in the 5th grade, I had listened for months about the family money problems; as a kid I knew far too much about the financial woes of my parents.  There was constant talk of not wasting milk, bread, or eggs; but, as kids, we always noticed there was never a shortage of beer.

As Christmas approached, I started to shoplift small items from the local stores; every time we went shopping I began to pilfer anything I could that would go unnoticed by my mom and store staff.  As soon as we got home I would shove the items under my bed in a little pile; soon, I had the cache I was hoping for.

A few days before Christmas Eve, I crept out of my bedroom late one night and filled all of the stockings with the small items I had collected; I didn’t have as much as I thought, with four kids I had barely filled them half-way.  I had to include items for myself so nobody would suspect me, even though I didn’t want anything; I had wanted my brother and sisters to have something.

I left a few things for my parents; I don’t remember what I stole for anybody, except my mom, I left mascara for her on the ledge by the stockings as well as some other junk and stuff for my dad.

The next morning, everybody was surprised that Santa had come early; my mom was convinced that our landlord had come into the house and left the gifts.  She told my dad he must not have been such a bad guy; knowing how they were struggling with the rent, he must have known Christmas was going to be difficult.

I threw my “gifts” away; I felt too guilty to do anything else with them.

***

I cried yesterday when I was out shopping because I saw that dog in Hallmark, the talking one.  We bought it last year for my grandson right after Christmas to save and give to him this year when he was old enough; but since my daughter is not speaking to me, it is just packed away in storage.

I had to bite my lip, take a deep breath and try my best to forget about his little face and the few months I spent every day waking up with him.

***

When I was 6, I wanted a snake more than anything; I loved the song Sneaky Snake, by Tom T Hall.  I thought a snake was going to be like that; drinking root beer, wiggling and dancing, everything he did.  My dad picked up a snake from the middle of the road one day and brought him home for me.

The snake lived in an ice chest in my bedroom; it was nothing at all like Sneaky Snake.  He was not a good pet for a 6 year-old; I was terrified of it.  Finally, my dad let him go.

A snake is not a good pet.

***

I used to have a nightgown when I was 11 that was blue terry-cloth with white trim; down the front were the words Definitely, Delightful, Delicious, Delovely.  For some reason, that hideous thing was my favorite; perhaps because it was not a hand-me-down.

One day, I was wearing it in the early evening; my dad called my brother and me outside to the backyard because he had a surprise for us.  I went out back to find him with a stack of bottle rockets.  He was challenging us to light them and hold them in our hands but there was a certain timing to letting them go; if you let them go too soon, they would just fizzle out on the ground, too late and they could explode in your hand.

I could not get the timing down correctly; mine exploded flames out the back and shot fire all over the front of my gown resulting in black holes all down the front.

I still wore the gown with the holes in it for years.

***

I’m terribly afraid of the dark.

***

I want to volunteer at a senior home and chronicle the stories of the elderly; I want to help them preserve their memories, I think so many of them would like to have their stories saved, but they did not grow up journaling or writing.  I feel small and selfish for never going through with it, for never finding the time.

***

There are a million more things I could say, but that is enough for now.  I am not leaving anything behind this time, some fingerprints, I suppose; the Eeyore blanket is coming with me.  I will not be returning.

(I am hoping to have a connection to continue… the last I recollect there was only a dial-up connection.  Challenging when you rely on the Internet.)

 

Just Me and My Mom

indexWhen my girls were little, the Mercer Mayer books were some of our favorites; Just Me and My Dad, Just Me and My Mom, and Just Shopping with Mom; they were all warm and fuzzy and carried a thread of family togetherness.  I adored my girls and we loved reading; sometimes we would sit together with stacks of books, a bowl of popcorn, unsweetened iced tea, and read for hours.

Back then, I was naïve enough to believe I was creating memories with them that they would remember for their entire lives; memories I didn’t have a chance to cultivate with my mother.  I wanted them to remember the silly preschool songs I taught them about monkeys jumping on the bed and hot dogs frying in a pan, or that I taught them to write, their colors, numbers, and the alphabet, all before kindergarten, instead of the memories I had of my childhood.

I longed to live out the fantasy life of the Little Critter mom in the books as my girls and I giggled our way through the stories, trying to forget my past.

***

My mom and I never had a very good relationship; I always had the feeling I didn’t belong, and that she simply didn’t like or didn’t want me.  I wasn’t special or unique in the family; I wasn’t the oldest like my sister, not the youngest like my other sister, and I was not the only boy like my brother.

I was just me; I talked too much, asked too many questions, and I was a picky eater; when I came in from school I would ask in one word “What’sfordinnerIhateitandIamnotgoingtoeatit.”  When we sat down to eat, I would move my fork through my food trying to make it look like I was eating; often gagging, and sometimes throwing up at the table.  It was a battle scene every night; meals were tense, to say the least.

The rest of my life was just as stressful; I didn’t get new clothes, as my sister was only three years older, I had to wear her hand-me-downs, but I was the only one.  My brother was the only boy so there was nobody to hand anything down to him, and my younger sister was 10 years my junior.  Needless to say, I felt singled out by the process; it could be that was just the way the cookie crumbled, but it felt bad.

Out of four children, I was the only one who excelled at school; I enjoyed being part of the academic world, and loved being away from home any chance I could.  I loved my teachers and they loved me; I never skipped school and didn’t cause any problems, except talking excessively.

***

When I started playing the flute, I was excited that I seemed to catch on quickly and had somewhat of a talent for the instrument.  I loved the way it felt to hold the beautiful instrument in my hands and play; it made me feel cerebral and elegant as I stretched my arms and fingers to reach the keys and hit the notes properly.

I finally convinced my parents to allow me to take private music lessons after school from my music teacher every Tuesday after school.  I would go directly there after classes and my mother would pick me up when I was finished.  I was in junior high school, but the music room was at the high school so I would walk across the field to his class, take my lesson, and then sit on the curb and wait for my mother.

Usually, I would get out five minutes early so I would be waiting for her and not have her waiting for me, as she had a tendency to be highly impatient with me.

One afternoon, I was sitting on the curb at 3:25; 3:30 being the appointed time she was to pick me up that day.  I waited for her and time wore on; it started to get darker and colder.  I looked at my watch, petrified to move and look for a payphone, afraid I would miss her; it was 4:30.  As it got later, I was afraid she had been killed in a car accident and that my brother and sister had perished as well.

5:00, no mother; 5:15, 5:30, 6:00; I was terrified that my father had come home in a drunken rage and had killed them all and that I would be left a 12 year-old orphan.  I was sobbing when she finally pulled up in the station wagon; she was furious with me.  “Get in the car,” she demanded, “Where the hell have you been?”

I was stunned; I had been sitting on the curb the entire time.  “Mom,” I cried, “I have been here, on the sidewalk.”

“No you haven’t,” she threw the car in drive and peeled out, “You little liar.  Wait until I tell your dad what happened.”

“Mom,” I begged, “I was here. Mom, Mom…”

“I have been driving up and down this street, around the block,” she lied, “I went to your school. You are in big trouble.”

I clung to the door, looking out the window and cried all the way home.

***

From as early as I could remember, my dad used to say to me, “You are so beautiful and talented; you are going to be our little model or movie star.”  My mom would just roll her eyes or glare at him.  I don’t know why he said it, I never professed a desire to do either, but he was insistent; a few times my grandmother commented as well because I was “so tall”.  I was the tallest in the family, but certainly short by most standards; as a full-grown adult I am now 5’4”.

When I was 12, my dad decided I should go to modeling school; he found one in Salt Lake City and enrolled me despite my protests.  It wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do; at 12 I still played with Barbies, rode my bike and played with my stuffed animals.  The last thing I wanted to do was go to modeling school.

However, my dad was determined that I was going to be the next Brooke Shields; I started attending the school 45 miles away every Thursday night.  My mom had to drive me every Thursday after school; I would attend sessions for four hours, from 5 until 9 at night.  She would pick me up and we would make our way back home where I would have to do homework and go to bed; often times waking up exhausted on Friday mornings for school.

Some weekends I went out of town for photo shoots, or did local shoots around town; I was told to drop weight from my slender frame of 90 pounds, and I was overloaded with heavy makeup no 12 year-old should be wearing.

One Thursday evening when class got out I sat on the stoop of the building and watched the women from my group leave, one by one; then I watched the instructors leave; and finally, I watched the janitorial crew leave.  I sat and I waited in the darkest industrial area of Salt Lake City I had ever seen; nobody seemed to care that I was 13 (by this point I had turned 13) and sitting alone outside in a bad area.

It was almost midnight by the time my mother pulled up; she was drunk and angry.  I silently slid into the seat.  She sped home; I watched as the speedometer reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, too scared to say anything; half wishing we would just die in a fiery car crash and get it over with, and half wishing we would just make it home alive.

***

The summer I turned 15, things with my mother and I had reached a boiling point; she was through with me in every way imaginable.

I cannot even recall what we were arguing over, but the fight escalated to the point where she attacked me; she began hitting me with everything and anything she could grasp.  At first it was just her hands, her fists, then it was a wooden spoon, a long stick kept in a planter to keep the plant growing straight, a handle of a broom, and finally a yardstick.  I had crawled underneath the kitchen table and she was hitting me with it and screaming for me to come out.

Later that evening, she called her friend; she was the wife of a co-worker of my father’s.  She asked the woman to come and get me and take me away for a while because she could not have me there anymore, she just couldn’t deal with me.  I was standing in the stairwell of our split-level home; I had a cut just below my eye and my back was welted from the broom and yardstick.

The next day her friend came to pick me up; she told me to pack my bag for a few months because we were leaving for Canada.  I begged not to go; I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, I didn’t want to leave, but I wasn’t given a choice.  I wasn’t wanted there.

***

Just Me and My Mom

 

Everybody Has a Story – Everyone is Worth Knowing

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I have always enjoyed talking to people, anybody who has ever met me would tell you I am outgoing, loquacious and talk a mile a minute; however, I appreciate the background and stories of others more than I do my own. My mantra has long been “Everybody has a story, and everyone is worth knowing.”
I believe the world is an interestingly diverse place and the people and their stories, their lives are what make each of our lives enriched. As we encounter one another and share our experiences, we enhance each other’s existences.
It is easy to walk past somebody day after day and ignore them; snubbing them because they are, perhaps, in a different societal class than you, because they are homeless, or maybe due to an invisible line that should not be crossed. Yet, when you take the time to talk to the awkward man who cannot seem to ever say the right thing when he is in a group of people, or the milquetoast at the gym, or the high strung blue collar worker from the opposite side of the plant where you work you may find they have fascinating stories they are willing to share if somebody is there to listen.
The stories that have been shared with me have been tragic, heart-warming, funny, sad, scary and assorted. While most of what I have learned is likely to be construed as anti-climactic everyday anecdotes of life, but each time I listen, watching hand gestures, sometimes tears (even from the hardest of men) and smiles, I am warmed that they chose to share with me.
I have previously opined how people have commented they feel comfortable sharing their secrets with me, and others have noticed and are amazed how I know so much about so many seemingly arbitrary people in my life, even peripheral people, those I should know almost nothing about.
Often times, I have wondered if those who felt comfortable sharing with me have looked back and remembered me since our conversations; I have a tendency to live like the tide, there is an ebb and flow to my existence. I am there, and then I am gone. So it goes, so it goes.
The other day I read a Freshly Pressed blog about a woman who had a life-changing experience with a homeless man; she looked into his eyes, determined he probably had a story, they made a connection, and he later came back to thank her for making him feel human. While few of my stories are anywhere near Movie of the Week or life changing such as hers, I give everything to everyone I listen to, offering anything I have.
Emotionally. Mentally. Caring. I welcome everyone back to the well as long as I am around. I have had varied life experiences and can usually find something to apply to any given situation. If not, I can listen; most people are happy to have an audience and to be heard.
If I could, I would spend my days walking the streets, talking to everybody I meet; the homeless, teenagers, angry drivers, anybody willing to tell me their story. I know at one time in their life somebody loved them, somebody wanted them; they were a baby, a lover or spouse, daughter or son, father or mother… they have a story, and they deserve to be known.