The Cool Goddess
If you could have traveled inside my mother’s womb and asked my prenatal self who is the one person you are most excited to meet when you are born? My answer would have been, “My sister, V”. My earliest memories are of her laugh; distinct, effervescent, obnoxious. I don’t think anyone really understands what a child recalls, or why they recall what they do. But in my mind’s eye, I see her laugh. It’s tangible… like a butterfly, there for a moment then gone, fluttering into the wind.
V didn’t share my enthusiasm, but who could blame her? What teenage girl, obsessed with boys, wants a newborn baby begging for her attention? I was the product of our mother and my father and to complicate things further, our mom wasn’t well. When I was three months old she suffered from an autoimmune disease called Sarcoidosis. She spent months in the hospital, followed by months of rehabilitation, learning to walk again. During this time, my Grandmother doted on me and took care of my frazzled father. My Grandmother was an amazing lady and she will always be, amazing grace personified, in my heart. She and my Grandfather picked up the slack whenever my father needed a break. My sister seldom missed a dance or a date and I’ve seen the photo albums that prove this. However, if you ask her, she will tell you that taking care of my toddler self was the sacrificial lamb of her youth. Perhaps it was in that very moment that her compulsion for lies began. Who knows? But like a myth destined to become a legend, V told me her stories….and so my hero worship began.
Fast forward a few years and V was in her early twenties and already on her second marriage. Husband number two was an officer in the air force and was much older than V. He traveled frequently leaving V at home with the Porsche and the credit cards. I was around seven or eight years old then and very much enamored with my sister’s life. Her world fascinated me. She had a cool apartment. She had a pool. She had platinum blonde hair, trendy designer clothes and a tan. To me she was like a goddess. She was just so cool.
In complete contrast, I was chubby and awkward. Of course I was a child, but I learned quickly that limitations define you in the real world and excuses only work for goddesses.
I was desperate for my sister’s attention. I would beg my mom for hours to please let me sleepover at V’s apartment. My mom would always say no and that she needed me to stay at home so she and dad wouldn’t be bored. I’d get so mad at my mom that I’d hide in the hall closet and plot my impending move to Grandmother’s house. That was until I overheard my mom on the telephone pleading with my sister for me to come and stay with her. I distinctly remember my mom sobbing after she hung up the phone. That sound echoes in my brain from time to time.
Other memories from this timeframe include the twins: Amy and Felisha. They were the daughters of Husband Number Two’s base commander. They were also mini-goddesses and of course, completely cool. V would bring the twins to our cousin’s basketball games. They always set courtside, away from me and my second grade friends. They ate McDonalds Filet of Fish sandwiches with extra ketchup that left the bleachers stained the same shade of crimson as my chubby cheeks. Both of which V pretended not to see.
In the years that followed, V seemed to disappear. She and Number Two moved around with the US Air Force and seldom found a reason to return home. My mom would try to get her to come for special occasions but V always had an excuse. Usually she’d plead “no money” then call two weeks later from some trip abroad. My mom never gave up on her oldest daughter, but if we tried to talk about her much, my mom would just get sad. So slowly her name disappeared from my vocabulary….but not my idea of her. I still idolized her from afar.
The day her name reappeared is a day I’ll never forget. I was home from college for a holiday and my extended family had gathered at my parent’s home to celebrate. I remember whispers as I walked into the kitchen, followed by silence as I poured myself some tea. Both my mom and my aunt looked worried and it was obvious they were waiting for me to leave the room. As I stood outside the door trying to eavesdrop, scary words penetrated the wood; words like felony and fraud followed by one very important word…V.
I never did get the whole story and it’s probably just as well, because when goddesses get into trouble they inexplicably extricate themselves. Nothing’s real and consequences are for other people….another life lesson I learned from my older sister.
The years that followed me into adulthood seemed to follow V into fantasy land. There was husband number three and the alleged multiple pregnancies that always went to term, yet never produced a child or a death certificate. Then husband number four, that may have occurred before husband number three was properly dissolved. Again, who knows, goddesses make their own laws and time just marches on…
My sister is someone who lives her life around her own shadow. She has bounced in and out of my reality more times than I can count, each time shattering another piece of the shrine I erected for her in my mind. Gone are the days of her ethereal existence because it’s amazing what a goddess looks like when she’s running from ex-husbands, ex-bosses and most importantly, herself.
The differences between us which were once a painful reminder of my inadequacies are now the things I’m most proud of about myself. I’m not made for a life on the edge. I care too much, love too much and am just in general….too much. I’m not a goddess and I’ll never be cool. But at the end of the day, when I’m lying in bed, my conscience lets me sleep, so I’m cool with that.