There is a picture of my sister and brother carefully posed on our sofa. Together as a team, they are holding a squalling bundle that was me. My sister was ten, my brother was eight. They were both wincing with the effort of trying to look happy while not dropping me.
Years later, it dawned on me that the true focus of this family portrait wasn’t me, it was my siblings. A Kodak moment that captured the dawning of their struggle to reinvent themselves in response to this attention-hogging new arrival.
Possibly my sister got it. Her face glowed with enthusiasm, as if she had just hit the big sister jackpot. Someone else to boss around, yippee! But my brother’s expression told a different story. Had there been a thought bubble over his head, it would surely have read, “What the hell is THIS?”
And so it began.
Reinventing ourselves. Shelves full of books are dedicated to the subject, but do we really need a How-To manual in order to imagine ourselves differently? Don’t our self-images stretch and morph all the time? After all, life is about growing and, as a result, changing. I believe reinventing ourselves is a constant process—even when we are not aware of it.
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a hybrid ballerina/nurse who danced her patients back to health. A few years later, after seeing Natalie Wood in Gypsy, I modified that goal. I still wanted to dance, but my healing talents were now transformed. I decided to become a stripper. I even had a stage name picked out: the Nudist Flutist. Tessie Tura and Miss Mazeppa sang “You gotta get a gimmick / if you want to get ahead!” and I was determined to follow their advice.
Inevitably—and fortunately—as time went on, my ambitions took off (no pun intended) in different directions.
In the autumn of 1961, my birth forced my siblings to reinvent themselves. Today, they’re still at it. My big brother just turned 60 and celebrated with a hair-raising kayaking adventure. And my sister? She retired down to South Carolina and recently sent me a picture of herself perched upon her new tractor as if it were a throne. As for me, I’m still the baby of the family on the verge of my 53rd birthday. And although I no longer want to “bump it with a trumpet,” I continue to appreciate Miss Mazeppa’s sage counsel.
By Donna Giachetti
Photo credit: miss mazeppa collage (c) All rights reserved by briedah