I wasn’t always the smartest kid. I was creative, sure. I could paint, and draw, and make things up. I also got OK grades. A’s and B’s, and when it came to math,C’s...
But the thing is, I tried really hard to get all A’s.
Not because I wanted to please my teachers, or parents, or myself, even.
But because of the stupid fucking principal’s breakfast.
If you got all A’s in elementary school, you got to go to this breakfast to eat in the cafeteria with your parents, the principal, other straight A students, and some of your teachers.
Looking back now, I know it wasn’t the breakfast that had me killing myself over geometry or reading ahead in my science books.
It was because my little sister, Kelly, without a doubt would always get straight A’s, which meant she would get a principal’s breakfast.
She’d wake up an hour earlier than the rest of us to go to school to eat fake eggs with greasy brown sausage and spongy pancakes with a principal I had never even met, despite the fact that I went to that school for four years. She’d sit with Mom when she was lucky, and she’d sit with Dad when he was around...and when she was less than lucky.
The whole idea of sitting in that cafeteria now makes me gag. I don’t think I could do it now if I wanted to. Which I don’t.
So why, then? Why did I want it when I was younger?
Now that I can see the whole picture without a frame around it, I think I know the answer.
I wanted to impress her.
I wanted to be on the same level.
I wanted to be able to say, “my sister and I are in this group together”.
|Kelly with her hybrid babies|
As I’m writing this now, she’s just graduated from art school.
She’s taken what she’s learned from around her (good and bad) from our parents, our lack thereof, and the world around her, and she’s made beautiful things with it.
She’s taken what she once could not control and molded it with her own two hands.
I always knew she would.
I always knew she was so much bigger than the little box our “world” was made out of.
Maybe that’s another reason why I wanted to be a part of this secret-breakfast-club.
Kelly’s two years younger than me, but I had always seen her as two years ahead. She was smarter, more creative, more artistic, more ambitious. Hungrier.
I wanted to be with her in this place where we were somewhat seen as equals. Because I knew it was only a matter of time before she would go off and do what she was meant to do, born to do. And she would do it better than I could ever do it.
The morning of her graduation, she invited Dana and I to a “Special Luncheon” for “leaders, high GPAs, etc.”
We sat in a room with her professors, adviser, and other students who had all invited their parents.
We were the only sisters there.
All three of us, together, at this place where the president of her college spoke about how wonderful they all were, where her adviser broke down and cried when she spoke about her, where I sat and took it all in.
And in an instant, I was happy that I never got to go to the stupid principal’s breakfasts.
This was worth so much more.
Then the next day, I watched her graduate.
I only got about...two minutes into the graduation ceremony before I began to cry, but once I swallowed up the tears, I sat patiently until it was over.
Lists of names were read, they called her name, her honors, her fucking 3.95 GPA.
Then it was over.
I watched her walk out of the tent, and I had to wait until the rest of the graduates left before I could see her again.
And when I found her, I lost it.
We both did.
I hugged her for what felt like hours. She hugged me back.
People took pictures.
I didn’t care.
I told her how proud of her I was, what an amazing person I thought she was.
I couldn’t get much else out.
But here it is now.
The way I do everything.
All I could think about on the ride home, as I drove her and I back to New Jersey, was the damn principal’s breakfast.
I was always so jealous when we were younger. She was part of this elite world that despite how much I tried, I could never gain entry into.
And last weekend, I feel like I was there.
I’m still there whenever I look at her.
I never thought it was possible to be so overcome with joy, pride, and overall awe as I am when I think of Kelly right now.
|Me, Kelly, and Marina: post tears and hugs|
I feel like most of our lives was/is spent on trying to overcome the circumstances we were born into. A drunk dad, a shitty childhood, the list can go on and on and on...
Here I am, a year left at my own college, and I’m still behind her, watching everything happen.
She’s overcome so much already. She’s one of the only people in our family to go to college and graduate, she showed “them all” that she can do it.
And every time I look at her, I think I can do it too.
I love you, Kelly.