O Lord, once upon a time, we were Bossy Big Sister and Ornery Baby Brother. You know perfectly well that hasn’t changed completely. But now, reunited after several years, OMG, thank You we can share a big hug.
Do you, like most Americans, value personal space?
Because my large family was stuffed into small houses, I developed an early yen for breathing room. If a genie had offered me wishes, I would have wished three younger siblings elsewhere.
But when I rubbed living room lamps, the genie never showed. So, I competed for the bathroom, the best car window, phone privacy, and a quiet place to read.
Recently, our pastor reminded me of those futile cravings. Using a room and duct tape, he illustrated how we compartmentalize our lives, attempting to bar God from areas we want to control.
My husband’s righteous elbow jabbed me.
He knew that as a child, I’d done exactly that — though I used The String, not duct tape. Another difference: I wanted to live close to God. I didn’t want to share a bedroom with my sister.
A pack rat, she never made our double bed. Her kitten never messed on her pillow. Only mine.
With that almighty String, I divided our bed and our room. “You and Kitty stay on your side,” I decreed, “and I’ll stay on mine. If we touch each other’s side, we pay fifty cents.”
She stared. “But you have the door.”
“And you’re standing in it. Fifty cents, please.”
Our parents spoiled my privacy plan. They showed zero respect for budding capitalism. How could they destroy such a profitable enterprise?
Little did I know I someday would share dormitory rooms with aliens. A fellow introvert, also smothered by a 30,000-student campus, wallpapered the inside of an appliance box. Whenever excessive togetherness made her crazy, she retreated into The Box.
A similar box wouldn’t have worked for me as a young parent. First, I always flunk do-it-yourself projects. Second, three small children — two probably fragrant with needed diaper changes — would have crawled inside with me.
Hubby and I had stuffed our family into a tiny house. When I began consuming whole packages of Oreos, he realized something my parents didn’t get: I truly needed space.
Terribly North American. In some countries, whole families could have resided in our little home’s closet space.
But we moved to a larger house. My Oreo-snarfing behavior — rather than my children — disappeared. Of course, a parent never possesses sufficient personal space. Amid slumber parties, snow days, and laser tag battles, I didn’t realize my personal space would expand beyond belief.
The pandemic provided more distance for us North Americans than we’d ever dreamed of. The pastor preached his duct tape message to a socially distanced, masked congregation.
For months, my siblings and I couldn’t visit. Now, with loosening restrictions, we will. There will be no Strings or Boxes at my house.
Unless they try to move in.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you crave space?
Oh, my God, thank You that, um, several decades ago, You sent me my sister. Years later, and miles apart, I’m still thankful for her. But she will always be three years younger than I. OMG, is that fair?
If you’re reading this, but didn’t wake up, please contact me immediately. I’d like to ghostwrite your best seller.
Later, Mom wreaked vengeance by dragging us out of bed for school, scrubbing our ears and necks before we escaped her clutches.
People have been awakening us ever since.
At college, I assumed I would decree my wake-up time. My dorm, however, housed 500 girls, all armed with high-voltage stereos and supersonic hairdryers. Exercise classes met outside my room — at 1 a.m.
Those years prepared me for apartment life.
“Someday, I’ll own my own house,” I said. “No more party animals. No more percussion teachers upstairs.”
My husband and I did buy a house — and filled it with babies, aka, screaming meanies allergic to sleep. Especially ours.
Not content with that, Hubby delivered babies — and took care of sick people. I frequently awoke to discussions of blood sugar readings and stool reports. And advice on how to kick insomnia.
Occasionally, I slept through his wee-hour departures. His returns? Not so much. Most sleepers might awaken if a shadowy guy joined them in bed at 2 a.m. — particularly if his body temperature equaled an arctic seal’s. If he was tall, thin, and bearded, though, I turned over and dozed off. If short, fat, and/or clean-shaven — Houston, we had a problem.
While Hubby cannot claim my levels of martyrdom, he occasionally lets me awaken him for less compelling reasons, e.g., suspicious sounds in the laundry room at 4:30 a.m. I demanded he defend our dirty socks with his life.
One night, in a hotel room, I awoke, convinced Communists were monitoring us through the sprinkling system.
He also insists my snoring awakens him, but he’s upping my stats so his don’t look bad.
However, neither of us will ever achieve my brother’s dastardly wake-up call. During a solo visit, he had buttered me up with a wonderful meal, fascinating tales of his Middle Eastern service, and (!) chocolates. Such behavior should have roused deepest suspicions. Instead, I thought he finally had grown up.
That night, I savored dreamless sleep — until the enormous clock in my room lit up like a carnival ride. An Arab voice belted out a call to prayer that probably awakened Atlanta.
I thought Judgment Day had arrived.
Eventually, I realized it had not yet come for me. But Judgment Day came for him.
Little Brother, if you’re reading this, my offer to ghostwrite your best seller still stands.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What is your least favorite way to wake up?