Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)
TITLE: A Different Child
By Angie Wolf
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When I was ten years old, I knew that I was different from any other kid in the neighborhood. Maybe it was the consignment shop apparel that my mother bought that gave me the appearance of a character straight out of a 1920’s film production. I had at least one cloche-like hat, several pair of T bar shoes with buckles, bows, or straps, and Spanish Brown colored rayon stockings, all of which made me look more mature. Perhaps my different appeal had to do with my father’s overemphasis on his offspring speaking only the King’s English. No colloquialism was allowed in our home. And then too, my different persona might have been the result of the little-mama role I readily and regularly assumed for my three years older, but emotionally and mentally delayed brother, Niko. Or, it could have been all of the above.
When the big yellow school bus stopped in front of the house and I stepped on to it, there was always an audience of my young peers waiting with looks of amazement as opposed to jeers at what the wardrobe genie had put together and clothed me in that morning. In their minds, I was an enigma, but in my own mind, I was just different. I had straight short brown hair, shorter that what was fashionable at that time for a youngster, deep set brown eyes, and I was shorter in height than most of the children in my age group, but my slicked down pomade laden hair and confident countenance made me seem much taller than I actually was. I had also dabbled with my mother’s Chantilly perfume before it was acceptable for a child of my age to do so. And mom didn’t mind. In fact, she encouraged me to exercise independence in feminine matters. This was definitely not the norm. Most mothers of daughters in my age category were promoting the collection of Barbie dolls and stuffed animals. I, on the other hand, was reading the Saturday Evening Post, the simple sections, of course, and taking an interest, in the art of tattooing long before my adolescence. But most of all, I was different because of the way I thought, which was more like an adult than a child. Ask me about politics, I had an opinion. Yet another opinion I possessed about celebrities and their lifestyles. But my opinion was expressed most over my brother, Niko. I was his biggest and smallest fan.
Niko had my heart. I believed that he could do no wrong but when he did commit an infraction against the Almighty, (and on occasion he did), I either took the blame for him or found some reason, at times farfetched, to excuse his bad behavior like, “He didn’t understand what he was doing.” or “I think he’s overmedicated.” or, my all time favorite, “The kids at school tease him and make him crazy.” Most of the time, I was a master at convincing mom and dad to not punish Niko, but there were days when nothing I said or did could keep him from the dreaded restrictions or whippings enforced by our iron fisted father. I remember when Niko had been running shoeless in the foyer and accidentally knocked over our mother’s prized crystal vase. The vase and the daffodils it was holding crashed to the floor. Fortunately, not one splinter of glass penetrated my brother’s feet, contrary to the wood splinters of the switch that dad used to whip Niko’s bottom.
Niko was different too. Where his mouth was often silent, his eyes spoke a language invented by his soul. I could read and speak his language. No one else could. A narrow squint meant he was tired. A glassy stare meant he was confused. And when his eyes were shut? That meant to leave him alone for at least a few minutes because he needed time to himself.
During the few times that he received corporal punishment, I never saw him cry. Maybe that was because I was always getting or keeping him out of trouble, so that when he did, on a rare occasion, get back handed or whipped, he knew that the experience would be short-lived. I was his advocate; much like the Christian population’s advocate is Jesus. The major difference. I managed to make it through my childhood without getting crucified and so did Niko.
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