Janet Sheridan: Honoring my siblings — the way we were

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In honor of Siblings Day on April 10, I am dedicating this column to my brothers and sisters. I hope they enjoy it. I think most of them might.

Being the youngest, JL could have benefited from the six models of exemplary behavior that preceded him, but there were none. So, when still a toddler, he pinched his finger in a church pew during a silent moment and exclaimed, “Damn, that hurts,” using his outdoor voice.

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Janet Sheridan

Older, but still exuberant, he and his newly awarded driver’s license accompanied Mom, Barbara and me on a summer trek to Yellowstone from Lander. We thought he’d kill us when he took the wheel, swooping and cackling along the highway. Oblivious to lane lines, caution signs and startled antelope, he chortled when we shrieked and slowed down only when mom faked a heart attack. What a merry time we had.

Five-year-old Blaine stood in front of a church congregation to sing a solo. His rigidly clamped arms, bulging eyes and catatonic expression hinted to those of us who loved him that the young Bing Crosby might be in trouble. Then he opened his mouth and proved it. Fright strangled his normally soaring voice and left him croaking at odd intervals like a troll.

Fortunately, he managed to repress the memory of his debut and sings for us to this day — if we ask nicely.

In seventh grade, Barbara won a scholarship to a Saturday oratory school. In it, students learned to modulate their voices and practiced perfect posture along with other decorous behaviors.

On the mornings she attended, she huddled by the kitchen heating vent, dripping tears and whining: She didn’t want to go; she hated it; she didn’t belong there. This class could be her last; surely she’d die before day’s end.

Years later, I listened as she delivered a speech before a large audience with her back straight and a voice that shamed the other competitors. When I attributed her first-place win to her stint in charm school, she abandoned decorum and stifled my laughter with a stranglehold.

Bob, a teenager, walked Main Street on the Fourth of July in front of hundreds of people, barelegged, wearing orange-felt bird feet. His friends wolf-whistled and yelled, “Nice legs.” Bob smiled and paraded.

Mom had created a legless ostrich from paper mache. She cut a hole through its trunk, attached replicas of two human legs wearing jeans and boots on each side, and placed a bridle in the bird’s beak. Bob inserted his body through the hole so the ostrich hung from his shoulders by straps made from suspenders. Gripping the reins, he appeared to be riding an ostrich with odd legs.

After he won a Dairy Queen gift certificate as the parade’s best individual entry, he drank three chocolate malts in a row.

Carolyn, an athlete crippled by polio, had a deformed foot and awkward gait but still dominated games. I remember her as a newlywed in a softball game played by mixed adult teams; as the outfielders moved back, she stood in the sunshine, waiting for the first pitch, her face lit with happiness.

The sound of her bat connecting and the ball’s flight told me my sister, who’d overcome so much, wouldn’t need to sprint around the bases.

When Lawrence volunteered during the Korean conflict, we missed the way he played with us and made mom laugh. His first visit home was as exciting as Christmas — until he decided to teach us how to make our beds, Marine Corps style. We watched as he stretched, flipped and smoothed bedding until he could bounce a quarter on the tightly stretched covers.

He was home for four weeks, and that was the last time he made his bed.

Siblings enrich our lives. Maybe we should all contact ours on Thursday.

Sheridan’s book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.

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