May 2nd is my lucky day. Three of the luckiest coins in my fountain were born on this day--my sister Rachel, my cousin Jenny, and my son Jasper.
It's hard to quantify or even identify the many influences Rachel has had on me. As my oldest living sister, she directed the family like a second mother. You know those beliefs you hold to in childhood that seem written in stone? The ones that, in retrospect, may be inconsequential but that seemed to be pillars of life at the time? (ie., Thou shalt be a straight-A student, dress up big for every holiday, run for every school office, stop talking back to your mother, and dry yourself off BEFORE you get out of the shower . . .) Well as I look back now, it's hard for me to distinguish which ones came from my mom, and which ones came from Rachel.
I remember crying when Rachel graduated from sixth grade. I couldn't fathom how I could successfully walk home from school without following dutifully behind her. I remember crawling obediently out of the house on my hands and knees, as she safely escorted all her sisters from danger. I believe we were making french fries, and thought we had created a grease fire in the pan? I remember being afraid to call her when I got engaged because I knew she would question my judgment. And I remember being genuinely surprised to learn that she was excited for me to move to Boston. She was living in New York, and was excited to have a family member nearby. At the time I still thought of her as The Big Sister, and I naively thought she'd have mixed feelings about her little sister's company. But she drove up from New York just to help me move in. Then I began to know and love her as a friend--not just a sister. Rachel has inspired me enormously in her perseverance of her dreams. She has pushed through every reversal, every rejection, and never given up. She is no friend of self pity. I hope she still achieves them all someday. I love you, Rachel.
Jenny is four years older than me. She influenced me in other ways. She got all upset on my behalf when my first not-even-a-real-boyfriend sort of broke up with me. She took me to lunch in Salt Lake as soon as she got her driver's license. She introduced me to bands from Oingo Boingo to They Might Be Giants (and interpreted their 'profound' lyrics for me). She let me tag along on dates with her fiance. And she knew I would marry my husband before I even knew it. Jenny and I don't talk as often anymore, but I never doubt that she's feeling for me. If I have sad news, I can be sure it will make its way to Jenny, and she'll be sad on my behalf. I love you, Jenny.
And Jasper--oh, Jasper. How can you put into words the influence your first-born child has on your life? I always wanted a wild boy first, and I got more than I bargained for in that department. What I didn't expect was that I was also getting a true companion. Because Jasper had a big vocabulary early, and because we lived in some lonely places, and had some rocky times in the first six years of his life, I have many memories of Jasper as my friend. In between butting heads, we've had many sweet moments alone together.
In Colorado we had many heart-to-hearts at Target (it was air-conditioned, unlike our house). He told me it was his life's dream to be a professional bull rider. Then when we had to do the move by ourselves, just me and him and baby Ruby, and I had to fire the movers for cheating me, it was Jasper who made me stop crying and get up and get working again. ("Mom! Grown-ups aren't supposed to cry!") When we moved to London we had so much luggage the only way to get around was to put Jasper in charge of pushing his baby sister in the stroller, following along behind Mom and Dad. He was only five. In London, we had hundreds of hours together on those long walks to and from school every day. Ruby couldn't talk, so it was just me and Jasper. I remember one particularly cold and rainy London walk when Jasper and I day-dreamed together about a place called California where the sun always shines. Jasper couldn't believe it really existed. Jasper and I still butt heads plenty--but he also makes my heart burst with pride. When someone is left out, all I have to do is point it out to Jasper and he will make sure they're included. When his sister is scared or sad (and they're not fighting), he protects her, speaks sweetly to her, and shares with her (often at his own expense).
In The Field, by Conrad Richter, one of my favorite books of all time, there is an amazingly strong female character named Sayward Wheeler. When Sayward has her first child, she runs the baby boy to the church to have him christened "Reliance," before her husband has time to object. She knows that her life on the frontier will be extremely hard, and that to succeed she will have to rely tremendously on this first-born son. Though all of Sayward's kids don't turn out the way she hopes, Reliance does. He is the strength and leadership of the family. Jasper, you are my Reliance Wheeler. I love you!
Rachel, Jenny and Jasper, you are three lucky coins in my fountain! xoxo