This morning I had a new yoga instructor. I’m going to call her “Chloe.” She introduced herself and let us know she would be the new instructor for this class from now on. She decided to share a personal story as an icebreaker and to tell us a little bit about herself.
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “I think I like this girl already.”
Yesterday was her sister’s birthday. “Lauren” lives a few hours away, so Chloe called to wish her a good one. The two sisters got to laughing and reminiscing about their childhood.
Chloe said, “Remember that time Dad wanted us to go to Grandma’s and work in her garden together?”
Their grandmother lived a mile and a half away. Chloe explained her father was, and is, a huge exercise buff. He was always encouraging them to move, and play sports, and be active as kids.
Her father chirped to his girls, “Hey, I’ll drive over to Grandma’s and meet the two of you over there. That way you girls can get in a little running time today. Then we can help Grandma together with her garden.”
The sisters rolled their eyes, but they knew this wasn’t a question. Despite being a yoga instructor now, at the time, when Chloe and her sister were teenagers, they were a lot less enthused than he was about all of that.
They decided to come up with an alternative plan.
In unison they chimed back, “Ok, Dad! See you there!”
With their mother’s help, the two girls hid in the trunk of their father’s car. Undetected, they caught a ride over to Grandma’s anyway.
Chloe said, “We knew we had to wait twelve minutes or so, or whatever it would take to run over there. We couldn’t show up too early, so we stayed hidden for a while.”
The girls quietly climbed out of the trunk. Looking at each other, they decided they’d better run up and down the block once so they appeared a little sweaty, like they would if they had actually run there. When that didn’t yield enough results, they crept into Grandma’s neighbor’s yard and spritzed themselves with the hose.
Assessing themselves and each other, Lauren said to Chloe, “You know, you still don’t look right.”
Confused, Chloe asked, “What do you mean?”
“When you exercise, your face gets really red…and it’s not red.”
Chloe knew this was true. Before she had time to respond, her sister slapped her.
Then she slapped her other cheek.
Exasperated, Chloe barked, “What the fuck are you doing?”
Looking at her sister with a straight face, she said, “I’m making your cheeks red.”
At this point, the girls fell about laughing and slapping each other until they were sure their appearance didn’t belie the facts. When they were done, they crossed the neighbor’s lawn to Grandma’s house to help their Dad.
Chloe was laughing as she shared this story. She said, “To this day, my Dad does not know we did that.”
After class I told Chloe how much I enjoyed her story. I also told her I had a friend who had been incredibly athletic her entire life, and yet, her kids wanted nothing to do with any of it growing up. Still don’t.
Maybe it skips a generation…like baldness…
It still puzzles my friend to this day. Sometimes I wonder if your parents are very “into” something, it’s the adolescent’s single most goal to reject it completely. The first silent protest in their young life: a big “fuck you” to their parents.
Chloe went on to tell me another story. She said when she and her sister were much younger, maybe five and seven, their parents had a dinner party. The difference was this time their parents set-up a kid’s table in addition to the adult’s table.
Their father said, “You girls are going to eat here [with the neighbor’s kids who are your age].”
Well Chloe and Lauren wanted no part of this. They didn’t know these kids, like these kids, and they did not want to sit at the kid’s table.
Chloe said, “We just need to go upstairs for a second, Dad.”
He said, “No you don’t. You’re not leaving. You’re sitting at this table and you’re going to have dinner with these other kids.”
The two sisters put their little heads together and decided to come up with a new plan.
“Dad…Dad! We need to go to the bathroom!” Lauren implored.
“No you don’t. You two sit right down and eat your dinner.”
At this point, Chloe is holding onto the desk at the yoga studio and she starts to double over with laughter telling the story.
She looked at me and said, “So you know what we did?”
I shook my head waiting.
She said, “We peed ourselves!!”
She must have registered the look of shock on my face. You did what??
“Yup. That’s right. We peed ourselves, just to prove my dad wrong!!”
At this point she is howling with laughter and it’s infectious.
I start laughing picturing these two precocious little devils in pigtails outsmarting their do-good father.
“Oh my God. What did your father do??”
She said, “He turned white as a ghost. He was completely mortified! Bahaha!”
I was laughing pretty good by now, shaking my head in quiet disbelief.
“You’re poor dad,” I said. “What was he supposed to do with that? How did he ever save face with the two of you after that show down??”
She just laughed.
I thought to myself, “I knew I liked you. You’re a firecracker!”
Chloe and her sister are only a couple of years apart. My sister and I are five years apart. When you’re a child growing up, it’s enough of a difference. You’re either “the kid” or you’re “the baby.”
And no one ever wants to play with “the baby.”
Guess which one I was??
My sister didn’t mess with “the baby” so much growing up, but we became a lot closer when she went to college. She took me to my first concert, U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” and not long after, to see INXS. I smelled marijuana for the first time there. Scrunching up my nose, I said, “Oh my God, it really stinks! Seriously. What is that smell?”
My sister snickered, shaking her head. “It’s pot, Jenn! That’s what it smells like.”
I was sure, even then, the police were going to show up and arrest them. (Them being everyone??). I sat on the edge of my seat for an hour before I realized that was never going to happen. I then visited my sister while she was away at college. As a high school student, this was a really big deal. For the first time, I had no parental supervision, and my sister was in charge…of everything.
I finally had a seat at the big kid’s table.
My sister and I have been close since that time. By now, there’s a lot of water under the bridge, both good and bad, that has happened in both our lives. Despite it all, and through it all, I am so grateful I had my sister to help me navigate life’s challenges and beautiful moments too. She has helped me a lot, and I have helped her too. How lucky we are indeed.
My sister also has one other little known secret about her. Sometimes when my family is all together, someone will say something funny, and everyone will start to giggle. Except my sister and I will start to giggle louder. We giggle until we start rocking back and forth, laughing followed by howling, with tears rolling down our faces.
We can’t stop.
This can go on for fifteen minutes or so. Everyone else has stopped laughing, and by now they are completely annoyed at this seemingly private joke, but it’s not that at all. Sometimes we can just make each other laugh for a good while, over just about nothing. Usually there’s a glass of wine involved, but that’s it. It’s the kindling that helps start the fire.
Having a person like that in your life is priceless.
Just like my sister.