Jana: I had dinner with my parents on Sunday and my dad told me this short story:
I have an older sister – about a year and a half older, but when we were kids it felt like much, much more. There was a hierarchy that existed in all of our activities (one “game” I recall involved her giving me ten seconds to run downstairs and sharpen a pencil. She’d stand at the top of the stairs and be like: “You have TEN SECONDS. GO!” and I’d be like “AHHH” and run as fast as I could, fearing whatever it was that might happen if I didn’t complete the task in time), and this hierarchy was made even more evident when our playing involved other kids her age. Naturally, the girl who lived next door was also an older kid – a year older than my sister, thus making them a team of older kids – and the three of us hung out a lot.
I mostly remember really, really wanting to play with them, and often getting told to leave them alone. But, sometimes they needed me. I think they needed me for situations like the following:
– To retrieve balls that had been thrown deep into bushes
– To play the lower-status person in pretend games
– To be the monkey in monkey-in-the-middle (THIS IS HELL)
– To generally have someone to boss around
Still, I craved their attention, and gladly took on these roles again and again. But my dad recalls that one day, we had all been playing outside until, for some reason, I’d been banished back to our house. So, I was hanging out alone in the “play room,” probably re-reading “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and blowing my nose. Suddenly, my sister and the neighbor burst into the house. “Jana! Come play with us!” they said. And – now this was a real moment for me – I think I finally knew what was up. They didn’t really want to PLAY with me, they just NEEDED me for some shit job. So I was like, “ok guys, be out in a minute!”, and waited until they’d gone back outside. Then I turned to my dad and said in a whispered tone: “…. I’m not going.”
Catherine: Jana, little Jana, speaking a secret in a whispered tone. This to me must be what heaven is like. I never had experiences like this growing up with my older brothers, I think maybe I was so awesome that they really did want to play with me? Or maybe no. Maybe this is what they were doing the whole time, all along, and this post is helping me to see the light… I choose to live in blissful ignorance.