Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ballad of Katie Lee OR How my Brother and I Broke my Sister's Brain

Just after my eighth birthday my parents informed my five year old brother and I that my mom was going to have a baby. Being an old pro at siblings, having already gone through the pregnancy and birth of my brother, the new baby jealousy, and just having to deal with him every day, I was excited. What was one more kid? With three we would finally outnumber the parents! Plus, this baby might be a sister!

Oh how I had longed for a sister! To not have to clip rainbow coloured Goody buckles into my brother’s too-short brush-cut, or force him to wear a headband and let me call him Sally. I was sure this baby would be a sister. The wonderful, awesome, super baby sister that I had always wanted to be my playmate! Someone who wouldn’t cry if I didn’t play dinkies and WWF Wrestlers with them.

I frantically began drawing Crayola Crayon pictures of my new sister. She would be the greatest person ever. I couldn’t wait for her to show up. We were going to have the most fun ever in the world!

When Jenna was born on the fourth of June, 1991, I was so ecstatic! The sister I had wished for was here! There were two of us now! We would be best buds and play together all the time!

Except you don’t really realize when you’re little that when a baby is born, it’s awfully small. And it can’t really play. All it can do is poop and cry and throw up on itself. Mostly a baby is just drooly and stinky. But that was okay. She might not have been exactly what I had expected, but at least she was a sister!
Not long out of toddler-hood it became apparent that Jenna wasn’t just your ordinary kid, she was something special. Now maybe it was because my parents are both the youngest in their families too, or maybe it was because she was just a sweet little darling baby angel, but everything Jenna did was adorable. Or at least my parents and all other adults thought so.

Not only was she adorable, but she was the exact opposite of my brother and I. Danny and I, we were kids that liked to play in the dirt and run around outside. I was a somewhat quiet and introverted child who liked to draw and talk to stuffed animals. My brother was loud and a talker and tended to drive both my parent insane with his non-stop chatter or if he didn’t have anything to say, sound effects.

Jenna on the other hand, was a natural born performer. By the time she was three years old she would belt out show tunes, perform one woman plays, and choreograph her own dance routines. She proclaimed that when she grew up, her chosen profession would be “Ballerina-Skater-Nurse” Anytime she acquired new clothes it was a chance to put on a New York Fashion Week style high fashion show in the middle of the living room. All this would have been fine except that she would FORCE everyone in the house to watch everything she did. Not only would she beg you to watch, but considering our parents found every movement she made so frikken’ adorable, they would goad us into watching her too.

One day my brother and I were sitting in our living room watching a particularly enthralling episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when Jenna Ruby, The Sugar Plum Fairy herself, came pliƩ-ing into the living room and arabesque-d right in front of the television screen.


MOOOOOOM! JENNA’S IN FRONT OF THE TV AGAIN!” my brother wailed, but it was all in vain. Not only would mom simply reply with an answer such as “Oh, she’s just little, and she’s so cute! Plus, TV just rots your brain anyway!” but no one tells you ahead of time that when your sister is four and you are twelve, you can’t just slug her when she’s being a turd.

We put up with her for a while hoping she would soon tire out and go find mom in the kitchen but as it turned out, mom was wrist deep in hamburger meat making a meat loaf and couldn’t clap for or provide the enthralled audience Jenna needed. We were going to have to deal with her, and she was going strong today. The new ballet lessons were obviously paying off for her, and she was going to get her tutu’s worth.

After about 10 minutes, a brilliant idea struck me.
“Hey, Danny? Do you remember Katie? She was so great.” I said in voice with just a touch of nostalgia.

My brother looked up at me like I had 10 heads. I shot him a quick look, that look that only lasts for half a second that says “GO ALONG WITH THIS.” One great thing about my brother and I is that we were such smart asses, and even though Jenna may have been the family
performer, my brother and I had definite improv skills.

“Oh, Oh yeah! Katie!” Danny agreed “She was cool.”

“Yeah!” I said “She was really awesome, just the best ever.”

You see by this time, it was not only apparent to my dancing sister that we were ignoring her, but we were now having a conversation in her presence that she was not a part of. We had piqued her interest and the dancing was slowing as she listened to us talk.

“She was the best sister ever.” I said. “Too bad she’s gone.”

“Oh yeah” Danny agreed, now grinning hugely at me. “Best sister I ever had! She was so nice and kind and she never ever danced in front of the TV.”

“Yup!” I said. “Never danced in front of the TV, and she never sang songs, and she never ever deleted our Donkey Kong games.”

“Not even once” Said Danny. By now Jenna had stopped entirely and was looking at us incredulously.

“It’s too bad what happened to her. I always liked Katie” I said.

“Yeah, too bad.” Danny agreed as we both tsk tsked and put on our most mournful looks.

“What happened to Katie?” Jenna asked; brown eyes wide and full of wonder.

“Mom and dad got mad at her cause she was always singing all the time.” Danny replied. “First they liked it, but after a while it started to drive everyone crazy.”

“Yup. At first they thought it was wonderful. But one day, they got tired of it, so they cooked her for supper and we had to eat her.”

Now maybe this wasn’t the most believable thing I could have come up with, but you have to remember that Jenna was just four years old at the time. In her world, a purple dinosaur hung out with a bunch of kids after school, Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny and the Tooth fairy were somewhere out there in the world probably enjoying latte’s together, there were monsters of unspeakable evil under the bed that could be kept away by pulling a blanket over your head, and “Ballerina-Skater-Nurse” was a viable future profession…

Of course she wasn’t going to believe it without question.

“NO!” she screamed at us “NO! THAT’S NOT TRUE! NO. NO, THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN! YOU DIDN’T HAVE ANOTHER SISTER. NO! NO YOU DIDN’T! The more “No’s” she said, the more she revealed just how unsure she really was.

“I liked Katie” my brother said “but she was even better with gravy.”

The fact that at age nine, he said this with such an utterly flat expression, no hint of a giggle, no smile, just as if he was reminiscing on a particularly delicious meal, dug the shovel in deeper.

“She was great. I miss her. She tasted a lot like chicken.” I replied. Danny nodded solemnly. We could have won Oscars.


Now see, the thing is, even though my parents thought my sister was adorable, and they rarely let us mess with her, I think they were a little intrigued by our story and as to where we might take it. I think they were a little amused by it, even though it was undoubtedly horrible.
I think they thought it was just unreal enough, that they let us have it. They let us keep our story. They didn’t shut it down by saying “No Jenna, there is no Katie, You’re brother and sister are being mean.” Once Jenna got thoroughly flustered they would stop us by simply saying “Okay guys, that’s enough.” And we’d stop talking about Katie, the cannibalized fourth Lee child, but at no time did they ever EXPRESSLY State “There is no Katie, there never was a Katie, Katie is not real” or any such statement, leaving the window of belief open just enough of a crack for us.

So on the day that we created Katie, we managed not only to horrify my little sister, but she stopped dancing in front of the TV and fled from the living room.

Katie may not have ever really lived, but in our imaginations, she was larger than life. Oh the adventures we had with Katie! Of course these stories only ever came to light when Jenna was doing something incredibly irritating while in our presence. Katie would be slipped so subtly into our conversations so as to make it seem like whatever Jenna was doing reminded us of Katie. But oh boy! Katie was a sister that anyone would have wanted. We would tell these stories just until Jenna started wailing and left the room.

You know how sometimes the stars align just right? Well that happened to us one day while visting our Nan and Pop. Nan’s brother had a little granddaughter. Blonde haired and blue eyed, who had just had her photos taken and Nan’s brother had given her a framed one that was sitting on the shelf amongst Nan’s pictures of her grandchildren. We were sitting in the dining room eating bowls of ice cream when my sister saw the new picture and said “Nan, who’s that in the picture?”

Nan looked up at the picture and smiled “Oh, that’s Katie!” she replied.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

Nan’s brother’s grandchild’s name was Katie, and now there was a picture of Katie sitting on my grandmother’s shelf next to the pictures of me, Danny and Jenna, and my cousins. If you could have seen the look of abject horror on my sister’s face, surely you would have picked her up and cradled her, stroked her hair and told her that her sister and brother were evil, evil children, but my brother and I, we just looked up at her and nodded ever so slightly.

And that’s how my brother and I broke my sister’s brain.


WB said...

Epic Win

Anonymous said...

BAHAHA Oh I love you guys. That totally just made my day.


Anonymous said...

Somehow ended up in here and read this story again. Just gets better every time...

hugs, Mommy