The Girl in the Middle

Oh, no, remember, remember
The fifth of November.

Remember by John Lennon

I have alluded to the trip that I took with Lydia to Charlotte, NC back in June, and how peevish some things made me. The thing that made me the most angry I never wrote about, in large measure because I was SO ticked that I thought I would write some characterization of the event that was full of bile and venom.

So now I’ve counted to 100 (1000? 10,000?).

On my mother’s wall are three pictures of her three granddaughters. Although she’s by far the youngest, Lydia’s picture is in the middle. It’s a photo from a couple years ago, and I wasn’t positive that she recognized her own image. So on that Saturday afternoon, I said to Lydia, “Who’s that girl in the middle? Who’s that pretty girl in the middle?” This was a conversation I was having with my daughter, and I wasn’t even particularly aware that anyone else was around, not that it would have mattered.

OK. So on Monday morning, while we’re having a conversation ostensibly about my mother, one of my sisters says to me: “Do you know what’s bothering me? When you were talking to Lydia about the pictures.”

Though it was only two days earlier, I had no idea what she was talking about.

“You know, when you were saying that SHE was the pretty one, as though her cousins were not.”

I said, “You’re KIDDING!”

“Well, you can see how I could see how we could think that.” Now to be fair, I don’t know if the other sister was party to this.

Well, no, I don’t see how you can see that. Not if I had NEVER said anything uncomplimentary about my beautiful nieces’ looks. EVER. Not only did I find it absurd, I felt it was insulting to my integrity.

“I wasn’t even talking to you. I was talking to my DAUGHTER to see if she could RECOGNIZE herself.” My voice got louder, and probably, a bit shrill.

I was so angry that for the next several days back in Albany, anyone I talked to, whether I knew them or not, I told the story to. One was a woman from the Red Cross, who told me that the sister’s reaction was the “silliest thing” that she’s every heard. Another said it was like a game of peekaboo you’d play with a child.

And I can finally tell the story now because it no longer burns a hole in the pit of my stomach. And writing about it reduces the power it had held over me.

I have my theories about what the conversation was REALLY about, but I’ll withhold that for the foreseeable future, except to say that I’m guessing that it REALLY wasn’t about what I said at all, but rather some of her internal stuff, something I can see now but couldn’t in the moment.


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