It was my cousin’s fifty second birthday on October 6th, I always think of her on that day, and not once have I had the gumption to pick up the phone and call her. We grew up together, yet the only time we’ve connected in the last ten years has been at funerals and my brothers wedding. It’s a nostalgic encounter, yet somewhere along the line, a breech of trust probably caused the detachment. Thirty five minutes apart, and very opposite dispositions keep us disconnected.
As a child I often felt bullied by her manipulations. Seems we’ve both lacked desire for an adult relationship, probably born of jealousy as children. Nineteen months apart in age she was always a challenging child.
I recall one incident when we were preschoolers, she’d spent the night, awoke early, rummaged through my parents medicine cabinet and slathered my whole head of thick chestnut hair with cream deodorant called “Tussy’s”. Took me outside, where we proceeded to peddle our trikes around on the driveway at six thirty in the morning. A neighbor called my mother panicked, after spying a three year old with white cream pasted to her head. Years later we laughed at her antics, yet wondered if we’d have been laughing if it had been “Neat “ hair remover on my head instead!
Another instance mom had just washed all the floors on hands and knees. We were sent out to play; my cousin was warned not to touch the hose. Of course Susan always seemed to hear everything in opposites. Proceeding to place the hose inside a window, flooding my moms freshly washed floors and rugs. Frustrated at her namesake for the constant upheaval she instigated while visiting, mom loathed watching her. I’m not sure the two sisters, (my mom and aunt), ever understood the emotional commotion she was capable of. Constantly making promises then lying and reneging. She was a devious little girl and I often wonder what made such a young person so deviant.
At times dad would intervene, requesting that the child who cut the chocolate bar in half should let the other have first choice. He also watched as she hogged beach toys while others stood by. He demanded she share and often resented how she treated other kids.
One year we both received hand crafted doll cribs for Christmas. The following summer Susan took my crib outside, flipped it over, and proceeded to jump off it, into our three foot pool. Over and over, taking more turns than necessary until Mom caught her and demanded she desist. Just one more time, then on the second turn, after mom firmly commanded her to stop, she crashed through the middle of the crib, shattering the base. Non repairable, I was without a doll crib. Meanwhile hers sat perfectly nestled in her room, housing her dolls, eventually being passed on to her daughter.
I had one Barbie and a few hand knit outfits for it. She had three Barbie’s, Skipper, Ken, and every accessory imaginable, with tons of clothes. Would she share? Never!
We’d each get a dime to place in the collection plate at church, I’d put mine in, she’d keep hers, and take some out of the plate as well. She’d eat two burgers, I’d eat one. She’d make me requisition another, so she could have a third. Of course there was some great bribe involved that never materialized.
Older and meaner, she manipulated me constantly, her personal prisoner; I had no words to explain what was happening to me. After years of constant abuse, tired of broken promises, one evening in the throws of spending the night, I called my parents and asked them to retrieve me. I was about eight, everyone was furious that I’d inconvenienced them. I couldn’t articulate my feelings, or what had transpired. I just knew I was sick of it.
After that, things changed. We were together for family functions, and when my aunt babysat me, living only a seven minute drive apart. I just never hung out with her. As a teen we had different interests. I blossomed and she got terrible acne that welted on her face. I had boyfriends and she didn’t.
I have always felt a bit intimidated by her. She has really bad OCD and everything she does is perfect. Her house was always so impeccable, in a rather scary way; of course there was a cost to that. They would call me the homemaker and her the house cleaner. People would tease her about being a fanatical perfectionist, with raw hands from constantly being immersed in water; she could be known to wipe a table five times while you were sitting at it. When we were young adults we’d party together on very rare occasions. The men would switch her drawers around, so she couldn’t find her utensils and dishcloths. There are many sweet things about her now. She has many friends, and she grew out of her nastiness. We are just too different in many ways. She’s still married and I’m not. She has a more affluent lifestyle than I do. Sometimes in my darkest moments I feel a little inferior now, not that I should. I just know the family judgments that go with my being unique. Hey, my own mother called me an odd ball, because of my artist tendencies. No one needs to hear that. Besides, who can trust a person who doesn’t have books in their house?