Tuesday, July 7, 2009

michelle, my belle

On Being A Big Sister

I kicked & pinched the boy who followed me around the playground
chanting "Your mom is pregnant!"
because I was excited, at almost-9, to have a pregnant mom
even though I knew in the dark secret don't-you-dare-picture-it back of my mind
what that meant my parents had done.

I don't remember thinking about whether I would prefer
a baby brother or sister.
I just wanted someone, finally, to share the crazy love
that was our family.

When my parents said I could choose a name, I felt a little panicked.
I alternately hated & loved my own name - how to pick something
that would only be loved?
I settled on Michelle, for my good friend who was funny & sweet & silly & strong.
And for The Beatles song that had French words in it,
sung by Paul
who was funny & sweet & silly & strong.

I'm sorry it became everyone's favorite name
because even though that meant you would never not find
a personalized notebook or key chain or miniature license plate,
it condemned you to being always attached to our last initial
in classes filled with Michelles.

My naming you, I see now, was only the beginning of many small sorrows I would unintentionally inflict.
I thought by being nine years older, teachers would forget about me
and let you be quietly you.
I thought by offering to set up your Barbie houses & design Barbie outfits, it would be alright
if I didn't actually play Barbies.
I thought by flunking out of college my freshman year, our parents would appreciate
how capable and smart and thoughtful you were.

you have risen above all the inadvertant obstacles I created
to claim your own name, games, and place -
though you have matched my reasons for calling you
what I did.
Maybe I was supposed to be in your way
all this time.

Happy birthday, my Michelle. Love you so.