We got my little sister off e-baby. You know, like E-bay, but for babies.
Okay that’s not true. And you knew that. But maybe, even just for a millisecond, you believed it could be true.
And maybe if you were two or three or four years old you wouldn’t have been able to make the leap to ‘no freakin’ way’ so quickly.
And maybe if you had four much older siblings spewing these kinds of ideas at you all the time, you would believe it.
Kate, my younger sister, believed it.
In fact, when she was this two, and three, and four-year-old, she believed everything my siblings at I told her. Unfortunately for Kate, that involved a lot of bizarre little lies. Kate occupied a very special younger sister position. She is the youngest of five kids- by ten years- and the only one who shares blood with everyone in the family.
Real quick, here’s how it works; Trevor and I were born to my father, Lance. Lance married Marla who had two kids, Lana and Michael. You’re thinking ‘BRADY BUNCH’ and I’m thinking ‘You’re exactly right.” We were stacked right on top of one another, each one year behind the next and for many years the four of us did everything together. We built forts in the basement together. We played tag outside together. We had a band together. We each had our own unique colored Nintendo 64 controller so that we could play video games together. On more than one occasion, we dragged all of our mattresses into my room and made ‘MEGABED’ so we could sleep together.
And when my step-mother had Kate (our half-sister and my step-mother and father’s shared child), the four of us found a new game to play together. It was called ‘make shit up and try to get Kate to believe it.’ This is the easiest game I have ever played.
We told her white lie after white lie. That little boys are born with mustaches. That if you didn’t wear a wedding band your left ring finger would fall off when you got married. That she was not to tell mom and dad that we told her but the meanest curseword was ‘genius.’ That certain bouncy balls were made
of a special material only found in outer space. (Her eyes lit up when we inspected her bouncy ball and confirmed that this one, was in fact, made out of space materials and that it was probably extremely rare and expensive). That if a word started with the letters ‘sp’ (think spaghetti or spoon), advanced English-speakers inverted the first two letters (think psghetti or psoon).
We filled her up with so, SO, many of these silly ideas. These weird lies. These small deceits. Kate was young enough to be so truly and wholeheartedly trusting. And we were too young to understand the responsibility of having that kind of automatic trust. And thus, a very slow disaster was set into motion.
It started when Kate came home from Kindergarten glowing because she had traded away her Gameboy for Luke Bloomenkrantz’s bouncy ball. She called him a ‘sucker.’ Our parents were furious. Lana, Michael, Trevor and I laughed. A lot.
To our knowledge, this was the first of our lies to be exposed. And even though we found it quite funny, our parents forced the four of us to apologize.
Separately. So one at a time, each of us said a half-assed sorry to our adorable, blond, pigtailed half-sister who was sitting on her pink bedroom floor with an
unwavering scowl and arms crossed over her chest.
And as Kate got older, more lies were exposed. When Kate started second grade, her teacher called home to recommend speech therapy. “Kate cannot pronounce the ‘sp’ sound,” Mrs. Shoo told my parents. “There may even be early signs of dyslexia,” she added. Kate had written ‘Pselling Words’ instead of ‘Spelling Words’ in big bold letters on her composition notebook.
The summer after Kate was in 5th grade, when we were all home to celebrate my birthday, Kate got upset when we wouldn’t all watch iCarly instead of Inception on TV. Monkey in the middle was played with the remove (I’m sure you can guess who was in the middle), Kate yelled, we laughed, things
escalated, and when Kate couldn’t keep her anger inside any longer she got right into Trevor’s face, gritted her teeth, and said ‘I’ve had it up to hear with you, you genius.’
Lana, Michael, Trevor and I roared with laughter. But then Kate was on the floor, weeping. Weeping with her whole body. In sadness and in frustration.
Right there in our living room, the four of us learned that all these little lies had created one colossal and tragic act of deception. We created a fake world and bullied Kate into living in it.
What we did was bad. Really bad. And it would continue being bad until every lie we ever told (most of which we don’t even remember telling) was exposed. Seeing Kate on the floor with her hands over wet eyes made us realize just how bad it was.
But it also made me think more deeply about deceit. How it tethers the deceived to the deceiver. How the deceiver creates a secret for he and the deceived to share. How my siblings and did that both to Kate and for Kate. How when we were off in college, in faraway cities, or distant countries, and Kate was at home, or in school, or at play practice, we forced her to carry all of us around. There was a twisted beauty in that.
Now I am 26 and Kate is 13 and I wish I could have found a better way for Kate to carry us with her as she grew up. And I wish we could have been more sensitive to the fact that she was so young and vulnerable. And I wish we could have been more delicate about the burden she carried being the only
one connecting our family by blood. But I wasn’t. None of us were. And I know this a little cruel, but even though it was at Kate’s expense, I’m happy our little sister has pieces of all of us inside her while we couldn’t be there in person. And I’m happy a world exists that only the five of us can be a part of.
Because even though it is based on lies, that world is sacred to me.