Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Southern Sibling Bond

I remember so clearly the day my brother Clayton was born. My Dad had left my Mom two years earlier, and the woman he had left her for was having his son. After a long day out, my Mom and I were returning home to our apartment in Palo Alto when I saw my Dad’s white work van parked outside of our apartment’s entrance. I rolled down the window and he told me to jump in because my brother had just been born. I was so excited, but wanted to be sensitive to my Mom’s feelings. I kissed my Mom goodbye, ran to the van only to run back to my Mom’s car and tell her that someday she too would have a son. She did 4 years later and by that time I knew babies well. Clayton, however, was my first experience bonding with a sibling. I had had 2 step-brothers previous to Clayton’s arrival, but my relationship with them always seemed to have a thick layer of contention...mostly due to the circumstances of how they entered my life. My love for Clayton was absent of this bitterness though. I often felt frustrated while at my Dad’s house, but never with him. I felt protective of him. His huge puppy dog eyes made it impossible to not feel that way.

As the oldest of both my step-brothers and Clayton, I organized imaginary games for us to play on the weekends and summers I spent there. My step-brothers often wanted to exclude Clayton from our play when he was a toddler, but I always looked at him as an opportunity to make our pretend games more fun, and since I was the oldest what I said went. When we played cowboys and indians, my step-brothers were the cowboys, Clayton was the indian chief and I was Sacajawea; when we played Batman (the T.V. show, not the movie), my step-brothers were Batman and Robin, I was Catwoman, and Clayton was the Penguin because he waddled or the Joker because he would let me smear his Mom’s lipstick on him; when we played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he played the color no one else wanted to be--purple (Donatello); when we played Mario Bros, my step-brothers were Mario and Luigi, I was the princess and Clayton was the dragon. Clayton was always so excited to be included in our play…even when I decided it was going to be Barbies...all day long.

When my Dad moved his family to Tennessee, I felt relief that I wouldn’t have to spend my weekends sleeping underneath a crib in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment (there were 5 kids in one room once my sister Rachel was born) anymore. There was extreme sadness that I wouldn’t be seeing my siblings as much though. I spent the summers in the south until there was no longer any money for me to visit. So many years went by not knowing Clayton or my other 6 siblings in Tennessee. Always thinking about them. Wondering what they were like and whether Clayton remembered me and the games I used to play with him.

I have seen Clayton and my other siblings a handful of times (some short and some longer visits) over the last nine years. Clayton came to visit me last summer, and I took him hiking at Griffith Park. He told me all about his girlfriend Megan who he was planning on proposing to. The night before he asked Megan to marry him (last Christmas Eve), he called and told me of his plans and how excited he was. I felt so incredibly honored and included in his life when he called and told me this. It felt like I really mattered because sharing this momentous occasion with me was important to him. He kept me informed of when the wedding was going to be over the next few months and how much he wanted me to be there. Attending it was a definite priority. Finances were not on my side though, so paying for airfare to Nashville was ultimately not going to happen.

I can’t express how fortunate I felt when the couple I work for surprised me by purchasing my Nashville plane ticket two weeks ago. I walked into the rehearsal dinner greeted with excitement and such love. Megan presented me with a cake that said, “Welcome Home Lecia.” Hugs from all 7 of my Tennessee siblings, other family members, and people I had never met was comforting in a way that made me feel that even though I was from California and hadn’t been an active part of their lives in such a long time, I really did belong there. Their southern hospitality and boisterous spirit was so satisfying to my heart. For the first time in a long time, my siblings felt like my actual brothers and sisters instead of distant cousins that I rarely see. They’re tied to me through both blood and history, and emotional distance would no longer be an option.

Clayton at 4 years old (the last year he played my imaginary games) and my sister Rachel at 2.

Clayton and I at Griffith Park, Aug.2010

My cake from Megan in UCLA Bruin colors!

Megan and Clayton at their wedding rehearsal dinner, Sept.2011.

Clayton's bride Megan and I.

My sisters Whitney and Rachel and I.

My step-mom Lisa and I.

Kelly green ruffled tank layered over cream lace shirt; vintage 1960's floral mini skirt; black and gold buckled vintage 1980's belt; black and 1" gold heeled shoe.

Close-up on my 1980's vintage black and gold buckled belt.

Back of my top: green silk top layered over cream lace short-sleeved shirt.

Close-up on my black and gold heeled shoes by Cooperative from Urban Outfitters.

Close-up on my vintage 1960's "baby purse" as Megan called it.

No comments:

Post a Comment