Third Time is the Charm

third timeBeing the “baby” in a family of three girls had its benefits and downsides. My ideas and suggestions about things were often discounted because I was the “baby”. On the other hand, I learned to be flexible and to go with the flow.

Mom and Dad were on the overprotective side so many of the things I wanted to do were vetoed. I reached a point where I would find a way around the no’s I often received.

When I wanted to learn how to swim, my dad said “absolutely not”. My mom helped me sneak out to the bus headed for the beach and my swimming lessons. The lessons were great and dad would have never known if it hadn’t been for scraping my nose on the sand bottom while learning to dive. I was busted.

Girl Scout camp was another struggle. Dad finally gave in. Details of the camp events were left out to give him a level of comfort. Later, I took up swimming at Camp and still later at the Y. It always felt that I had to figure out how to get around my restrictions to do the things I wanted. Eventually, I earned the position of pool manager at the YMCA. I loved my job and thought I was good at it.  One day my dad asked me if I was properly supervised when I was at the Y pool. I had to tell him that I was the supervisor. He was surprised.

My middle sister was surer of herself than I was. She had many friends and enjoyed having them over when mom and dad were away. Since I was the little kid, they would find ways to get rid of me. One night, they sent me to my room and closed the door. No one knew that once that door was closed, it wouldn’t open. We ended up having to bring a ladder to the window and have someone take the door off the hinges.

On the other hand, when we were younger, my middle sister often included me in fun times with her girlfriends. We set up the basement as a pretend house with different rooms and played with our dolls. I loved sharing those times with the “older” girls. Sandy and I also loved to play with paper dolls. We would spend hours making up stories and changing the paper clothes to act out the events.

I didn’t really know my oldest sister very well. She was nine years my senior and lived a life very different from mine. Mom made her beautiful clothes and dad enjoyed taking her golfing and cooking out for her friends. She would take me under her wing sometimes and let me see her art drawings or take me on an adventure downtown. She and Sandy were closer than she and I. Sandy spent time visiting her when she went away to nursing school. They always had fun on these trips and I always felt left out because I was too little.

After Kathy became ill, Sandy and I bonded together. I would say we were best friends. I loved shopping with her and she would sit down and instruct me on what to do and not do when it came to dating. When she was engaged to Art, she and I spent many hours together picking out furnishings for their apartment. I was up for going anywhere she wanted to go because we always had a good time together. At those times, I felt more like a peer than a little sister.

By the time Kathy became bedridden, Sandy was busy with her life with Art and their friends. She had school and a job. Even though I was the youngest, I was the one that ended up helping mom take care of Kathy when mom and dad wanted to go out. My social life was almost nonexistent so this wasn’t a problem. I was shy at this point in my life. I did have a boyfriend in high school and he was happy to stay at home with me while we took care of Kathy.

In our family, we three were several years apart. Kathy was four years older than Sandy and I was five years younger than Sandy. In many ways, I got the chance to live as an only child from birth to age five. I was home with mom and enjoyed her full attention.

We had so many different dynamics going on in our family that I sometimes think that our birth order didn’t really matter all that much. Kathy’s illness changed the way we all related to each other and the roles we played in each other’s lives.

The one skill I feel I missed out on was that of making decisions. When you are the youngest in a family of five, it’s unusual for the youngest to be tasked with making decisions. I was always a pleaser and overly sensitive. I wanted to please mom and dad and went with what my sisters wanted. I was often ambivalent and was happy if the family was on the same page.

I also played peacemaker sometimes. I remember one time Sandy was mad at mom and dad and decided to run away from home. I chased after and begged her not to leave. I was really upset. She admits now that she kept going because she enjoyed having someone want her to come back.

It did seem to me that Sandy got handed most of the chores. She mowed lawns, weeded gardens, washed dad’s car, and cleaned the house. I would try to help as much as I could but often our parents felt I was too young to help. On Sundays, we always had a large dinner in the afternoon. Mom would cook and after dinner Sandy and I got the job of cleaning up. We would clear the table and put away leftovers. Then Sandy always wanted to wash the dishes and I would dry and put dishes away. It always felt like this task took forever. Occasionally, Sandy and I would argue about the process.  When Sandy and Art got married, Dad bought a dishwasher. I wonder why that was?

Sandy often says that Kathy was the Queen, the chosen one. She said I was the princess, the favored one and she was the frog. I think she was the strongest of the three of us and was the glue that kept us together. Thank you Sandy. 

Who is Judy

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