Falling Far From the Tree (In Which I Feel Halfway Sorry for Myself)

This weekend I took the opportunity to visit my parents P & E in lovely Northeast Ohio. I mean no sarcasm with that adjective. Here in the corner of the country where the great plains blend into the western reserve of Pennsylvania, the hills are rolling, the air is fresh, and Lake Erie provides a pleasant background up until the point that it starts spitting out “Lake-Effect” snow for weeks on end.


Northeast Ohio.  Really.  

I’ve always said – with only a touch of exaggeration – that I managed to score the worst gene combination possible stemming from my exceptional parents. Lest you roll your eyes or offer to play a few bars on the world’s smallest violin, let’s examine the evidence.

Hair: Mom’s is fine and stick-thin. Brown. Dad’s is lush and wavy. Blonde (until it was gray). I got Mom’s hair.

Eyes: Mom didn’t need any corrective lenses until she was 42. Dad and I both got fitted for glasses around age 7.


Courtesy of SodaHead.com

Cholesterol: Mom’s is off-the-charts low. Dad’s is elevated despite a healthy diet and exercise. Mine is on the way up. I’d better enjoy that Pamplemousse now because one can’t consume anything grapefruit when taking Lipitor.

Musical Ability: Dad can literally take any instrument and play any song by ear. Piano, clarinet, trumpet. Mom needs sheet music. So do I.

Artistic Ability: Dad can draw and calligraph. I once drew a banjo while playing Pictionary and my team guessed “tiger.”

Skin: Mom is olive toned and tans easily. Dad is fair (and has flaky dry skin to boot). I’m the latter.

Leg hair: A bizarre one, but worthy of mention. Neither of my grandmothers ever had to shave their legs – they just didn’t have anything grow there. I have to shave enough for the three of us combined.

Overall Demeanor: Generally speaking, Mom is a bit more laidback while Dad does the worrying (sometimes unnecessarily). Anyone who has spent any time with me at all knows my anxiety is one of my most endearing traits.

Oh! But at least I’m not allergic to cilantro like Dad is. Check one. Mmmm … burrito.

I’m also not as good a cook as my Mom, as good a writer as my Dad, or nearly as industrious as either. But I suppose there are worse problems.

The so-called American dream is for one’s kids to go farther in life than oneself. But having parents that continue to inspire you into your 30s (not to mention having parents that remain healthy, happy, and productive past their own technical retirement ages) is a pretty sweet deal as well.

Just wish I had thick blonde hair or still had several years to go with perfect vision.

Seven Minutes Out of Heaven (In Which I Detail What Image I’ll See On My Death Bed)

You’d never know it to see me today, but I wasn’t the popular type in elementary school. First, I had glasses. And braces. Secondly, I was smart (ish). Thirdly, I’m pretty sure most of my wardrobe consisted of sweatshirts with “cute animals” on them. Fourthly, my Mom was a sixth-grade teacher at the same school I attended (and a slightly infamous reputation preceded her). (Pic below is from my eighth-grade year, when I was infinitely more enviable than just three years before.  Someday I need to get a scanner and deliver the proper 1983-1986 goods.)

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Or this.

So no, I wasn’t best buddies with the crème de la crème of the school (though I am friends with some on Facebook now so I won’t name names). But in situations where the grammar-school caste system extended down a couple of rungs, I would get invited to things. Birthday parties and such. I was quite possibly the 17th-most popular girl in the fifth grade.

And because I was a fifth-grade girl, I had one “mean girl” arch nemesis – let’s call her “Annabel.” She was the most “popular” of all, even though even her closest “friends” didn’t really like her. She ruled through fear, her iron fist clutched around a crimping iron. Whatever fashion trends she started, others followed (the whole “wearing the stretchy socks OVER your Guess? jeans?”  Pretty sure that began in one fifth-grade classroom in suburban St. Louis).

Annabel paled in comparison to Rachel/Lacey/Amanda

But let’s back up. Even though I was only the 17th-most popular girl (and probably the 32nd cutest), I had a years-long crush on the first or second-most sought-after guy. Let’s call him “Jeff,” because that’s actually his name. Fast-Forward: same Jeff is married to one of my best friends today and I’ve spent the night in their home countless times. We were at each other’s weddings. I’ve helped him diaper his triplets, for God’s sake – I HAVE ARRIVED.

So back to fifth grade. One night in December 1984, I was dropped off fashionably late at a slumber party at my pseudo-friend Amy’s house. Telling goodbye to my Dad, lavender sleeping bag tucked under my arm, I noticed a crowd had gathered in Amy’s driveway.

“What’s going on?” I asked excitedly and with a huge smile on my face. Had the “light as a feather” game started yet? Were we waiting for the pizza delivery guy? (Were there pizza delivery guys in 1984?)

Oh no. In fact, Annabel and Jeff were (French?!) kissing, and everyone was cheering them on and counting how high they could go before coming up for air. 37 seconds. 37 seconds. And I did that thing where your physical smile stays plastered on while your inner spirit becomes sucked out of you utterly. Here they were – the love of my short life and the girl who made my life miserable on a daily basis because I didn’t have more than one Swatch (my parents were both educators, for eff’s sake!)

23, 24, 25 … ha ha ha. Fake laugh. Gulp, squirm, blink back tears.

Turns out Jeff was staying at his friend’s house – next door to Amy’s. The next part of the interminable evening involved Annabel talking to him on the phone while she mindlessly ran her fingers over her rode-hard-for-37-seconds lips.

It pretty much ruined my evening. If not the rest of my childhood.

And while I still haven’t friended Annabel on Facebook, I have spotted her in my “People You May Know” sidebar and can unequivocally state that she hasn’t aged well.  Though she probably still has more Swatches than I do.

But this was the one I had, and it was awesome.

Photo courtesy of jenontheedge.com