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The Youngest, A Rebel

As soon as I was born, comparisons bombarded my parents. As a newborn, later as an infant, and on to school, everyone in the family talked about how much I resembled my father’s youngest sister. In fact, my first infant picture and hers were nearly identical.

With normal aging and family life came more comparisons. I was as stubborn as she was. I wouldn’t stop until I accomplished whatever I put my mind to. I could argue with the best, and so on.

She was the baby, the one who stayed at home the longest, the first one to scandalize her father for wearing shorts. I was the oldest, the one who demanded my hair to be cut because of the heat and almost gave my father heart failure. Yep, she was my heroine supreme.

After all, how could I go wrong? She was lovely, athletic, hard-working, fun, and generally a role model. She was the closest in age to me, though not by much.

Her honey-colored locks explained my own blond curls as a child. We looked alike, acted alike, and considered things in the same way. We were ageless bookends.

Like all of the “girls” in the family, my young aunt could stand up to what life threw her way. Two marriages, widowed twice, and two children didn’t dampen her spirit. She could take care of herself when need arose and proud of it.

Like her sisters, she had talents. She could sew beautiful clothes. I remember one summer when I was visiting, she was making a double-breasted jumper for one of my cousins. I fell in love with that jumper. Of course, it was too small. I asked if she could make one for me.

As soon as she finished the one she’d started, she took out extra fabric that she had. I was confused when she picked up the newspaper. I asked what she needed that for and she said that she had to make a new pattern for my jumper and would use the newspaper for that. I paid special attention to her hands and what they did. I listen as she explained the process of the task.

A few hours later, I had my own jumper; the prettiest blue with white banding that I’d ever seen. It was something no one else could do for me, and it was special. I was in junior high or high school at the time. Many years later I would emulate her process to make tank tops for my best friend. Knowledge should never go to waste.

My aunt was the kind of woman who would allow my brother to ride the milk cow because he wouldn’t stop pestering her. Even when she told him that he could get hurt, that he’d be thrown, he wouldn’t let up. Finally, she said go ahead.

She held the halter and waited for him to slowly move from the top of the stall wall onto the cow’s back. A second later, that cow exploded out of the stall, brother hanging on and playing cowboy, until ten feet later when he flew off the cow and landed on his back on the barn floor. Auntie looked down at him, asked if he was hurt, and said something like, “Do you still want to ride the cow?”

So much has happened in both our lives since those days of simple sewing and tending to chores, and watching foolish boys learn to fly over cows. Like her sisters, she has grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren. Some days her body aches. Many days she tends to the needs of other older women who need help at home.

Granny taught her daughters the habits she valued, and service to others was one of those habits. And the baby of the family spent more time with Granny, having her as a constant companion in her last years. That bright, willful, hard-working lady whose baby picture could have shown my twin will always shine as an example for me; a mirror image in many ways.

For all our similarities, we do diverge in habits, aspirations, and lifestyle. She stayed near home, while I live at a distance. She married and had children. I remained single. I work to build another career and future. She is content to enjoy retirement.

We both still know how to play. Don’t ever challenge us to a game of Rook. You’ll lose.

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