I have big hands. I mean remarkably big hands. You can’t tell just by looking at me, but the width, length and span of my hands is enormous. If it comes up in conversation with a guy, I generally get “Oh, come on, they can’t be that big…” as he raises his own in challenge, only to (in all but four cases in the past three years) lower it, embarrassed and outsized. If hands are compared with another woman, almost always is there a wince of sympathy or an “I’m sorry” given, or startled “Whoa!” On one memorable occasion the woman in question gasped “Oh, you poor thing,” as she patted my arm, then brightly cheered “But at least you have great boobs!” Phew, I thought, weirdly amused, good thing I didn’t let the team down!
I’m freshly, garishly dressed, having spent most of my Saturday morning watching the latest music clips on Rage. The inspiration is obvious. My hair is teased at least a hand’s height above my head, I’m still trying to unstick my eyelashes from the deluge of hairspray I’ve used and my outfit is red and blue hair ties (brave choice for a redhead), red shirt, blue skirt, red tights, blue shoes. I trail my Mum as we go to the shops, when suddenly I see them – the Year 12 girls. Their maturity is captivating, poise and grace as thick around them as the smell of grape HubbaBubba. One day, I tell myself, I’m going to be 18 and mature like they are, I’m going to know what’s going on, and life is going to make sense.
In the one year I became old enough to vote, legally drink, join the Royal Australian Navy and be legally considered an adult. Standing on an Army firing range, Steyr rifle casually hanging off one arm, the reality of my age smacked me upside the head. What on earth are they THINKING? I asked myself. I’m only 18! Just months out of high school! Don’t give me a GUN – what are you, nuts? A baritone boom of my surname interrupts my incredulity, then I saluted and answered my Captain. One day, I told myself as he walked away, command and bearing as obvious as his insignia, I’ll be 32. I’ll know what’s going on, I won’t be making stupid decisions, and life is going to make sense.
I’m up to my mammaries in parenting, marriage, church and work.
“Hi, my name’s Kellie/Kel/Sister George, and I – what?” What comes next? In the past month I’ve had to write a bio paragraph and introduce myself to three different groups. Each situation was far from simple or easy. Sure, some parts were fairly constant. Like my name. The fact that I have kids is usually mentioned. But mostly, what else is included is subject to change without notice.
Because really – what IS in a name? Not just the name that our parents decide to saddle, gift or burden us with, but all the other names we give ourselves, or accept, or can’t seem to shake off. Names, or labels, put us in certain categories and out of others, and frankly some distinctions I refuse to add to my list.
Case in point – when asked, or required, I state that I am a sole parent, and not a single Mum. Some may see it as splitting hairs, but I identify much more with being the sole parent of my sons than in being a Mum who is single. Which leads to the classification looming on my horizon – in 4 days, when my divorce becomes final, I am not adding “divorced” to my own personal list of labels.
Today’s post comes from Ellen Patton, born and raised in Van Nuys, California and moved to Boston 21 years ago sight-unseen. She has loved living in New England since that first day when she said, “this apartment is OLD”. Her hobbies are late-night baking, antiquing, reading books and magazines, sewing, quilting, exploring in New England, spending time with friends, writing letters, watching movies, and photography. She owns a loft condo with 18 foot ceilings in a converted high school. During the day she works as an assistant to the President at MIT, and has word processing, photocard, and photography businesses on the side. Ellen has 3 brothers, 11 nieces and nephews, and a bus fleet of friends. She currently serves as the RSP in the Arlington Ward. She is a daily blogger at Big Red EP .
Ten years ago this month I went to China for two weeks with my good friend when she adopted her second daughter. (She said she invited me to go because I was good in groups and she knew I wouldn’t tell her what to do with the baby.) There were seven families from Boston traveling in our group. I spent time on the Great Wall, visited two orphanages, took a boat ride along the Li River, witnessed the families meeting their daughters for the first time and enjoyed traveling for two weeks in an amazing country (we traveled to Beijing, Nanning, Guilin, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.) I captured the two-week trip on 55 rolls of film–it was a memorable experience! I don’t think my friend would have invited me if I had had my own family (and I probably wouldn’t have left a family behind to travel to a third world country).
When my older brother, a sportswriter living in Florida, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age thirty-seven, I saw him a dozen times during the eighteen months before his death. His becoming a hospice patient coincided with a timely layoff from my job, and I flew from Boston to Florida and spent two months; caring for him and helping his wife and three children with the day-to-day duties of their household. I would not trade that time in my life for anything. For all the sad memories that I have of his struggling as his mind and body stopped working correctly, I have many sweet memories—of his recognizing me after his first brain surgery, feeding him jell-o in the middle of the night, asking him sports trivial pursuit questions, and talking about what life after death would be like.