And then there were two. Most memories of my sister are distorted by my two blue first-born, eyes. Jaclyn was a natural acrobat who, even as a toddler, was able to dramatically roll her eyes, thus capturing the attention and the affection of all who gathered ’round. I became the quiet, older brother in the corner, content to observe rather than participate. I spoke to nobody except my parents and some of my aunts, uncles and cousins.
Jaclyn was tanned from the moment she burst from the womb. Much of our family referred to her as the ‘little indian girl’. We were anything but Politically Correct.
I was happy to give up the spotlight, although Jaclyn might argue that she never really owned it. All of the pictures in our family photo album, which has since been transferred into scrapbook format during my mother’s short-lived scrap booking phase in the early 2000’s, are primarily comprised of pictures taken during the first few weeks of my life. Such is the case with most families.
Jaclyn and I were enrolled in sports very early on: she in gymnastics and I in soccer. I remember well the gymnastics outfit my parents bought her: it was purple and white and had a texture similar to luxurious brands of toilet paper. I borrowed a uniform from the soccer team, but I got a jock strap and some new shoes.
My sister excelled at her sport. She was a preternatural gymnast. As a toddler, she climbed onto the backs of our family’s most unstable chairs with tremendous ease in order to reach the living room light switch, turning the lights on and off while rolling her eyes. Her gymnastic performances captivated all who saw them: I, on the other hand, chronically slipped and fell in the muck of the soccer field. My pathetic, asthmatic lungs crumpled under the weight of exertion and I gave up my sport well before season’s end.
One of the few moments when I felt as though I managed to side-step the looming shadow of my sister’s looming shadow was when I was at my Uncle Dale and Aunt Sandra’s house. For some reason, that wee bungalow compelled me to feel brave.
Dale and Sandra always had the latest, greatest sound equipment. In the early eighties, they had one of those space-age stereo systems. All round and modern, the dust cover of their record player was half spherical. My uncle took the cover off his hi-fi, placed it on the carpeted living room floor and put me inside; I started giggling manically well before he set me a’ spin.
On these nights, I sang. My aunt Sandra took up her post on her piano bench. The yellowed sheet music urged her on and on into Hymnal bliss. I stood beside her atop the holy piano bench woodgrain, belting out every song my young brain could contain.
“Praise the Nord, Praise the Nord, let the people ‘ajoice'”.
My parents, and all who gathered knew I would be a preacher someday. It was in my genes. I preached to all who smoked on the street. I even preached to my babysitters; I was captivated by Samson, and in love with Jesus.
This maniacism went unchecked, in fact it was encouraged, until I entered into the underground confines of my Grade One Elementary School Class. Looking back on it, I think I knew what was coming well before reality’s brutal bride first kissed me on my childish cheek.
My father walked me to school on my first day. He has since said it was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. It began as we waited in line to get through the double red doors of Mayland Heights’ back door entrance. I kicked the gravel at my feet anxiously as we waited. He tried to talk to me about how exciting this was, but I was locked in a terrified trance for the week leading up to this treacherous affair.
When the doors were finally opened, my father led me to my first grade classroom and introduced me to my very first teacher, Mrs. Abraham. She smelled like flowers, and her name was familiar to me from my Sunday school Classes. I genuinely loved being in her presence, until my father told me he had to go.
Panic set in when he left. I remember his face lingering in the upper window of the door on which I beat mercilessly with my six year old fists. And then he was gone. Mrs. Abraham told me everything was ok as she led me to my first desk, strategically placed right in front of her own. That first day was hard, I remember nothing of it aside from the fact that my mother managed to remember to pick me up once school was finally over.
I was a perfect student. I did whatever my teacher told me; I did whatever she insinuated I should do. I was eager to please and my marks were more than extraordinary.
My elementary academic prowess carried bore the expense of a social ineptitude so severe it still haunts me nightly. I fell in love with a girl at the tender age of eight; it was a love, ultimately unrequited.