Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Cousin(s) (05/22/08)
- TITLE: The Return of the Hokey Pokey Twins
By Donna Powers
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Yeah, well judging from this crowd of Suburban Sallies, I can see where he’s coming from. After all, with my leather pants and biker boots and the studs in my ears plus the one on my tongue, I don’t exactly fit in with everyone else at this wedding.
The bridesmaids look like perfect little China dolls: pink and purple prissy dresses and not an ounce of mischief in any of them. And here comes the Bride: beautiful white silk from head to toe – and I know for a fact she “deserves” to wear white. I’ll bet that usher isn’t the only one wondering why my cousin Jenna invited me here.
Believe it or not, there was a time that the two of us weren’t so different.
There’s a picture in our family album of Jenna and me, when we were both four. Our grandmother bought us identical dresses: navy pleated skirts with white “sailor” tops. Both of us had our hair in pigtails: Jenna’s wheat colored straight hair looked even lighter than usual, next to my dark brown curls. Both of us had navy and white ribbons on our pigtails. We both loved those dresses, and we did an impromptu Hokey Pokey around the Christmas tree, which is what prompted the photo. In it, we look like twins, dancing joyously under the tree while everybody said “awwww” at how cute we looked and how alike we seemed.
We were always together, during those years. I had a sister, but she was older. Jenna had three brothers. We gravitated toward each other during family parties, and we laughed and played together. We promised to always be there for each other, and to stay as much alike as we were, then.
Jenna’s dad got lucky in the stock market, so she’s the one who had a chance to do the Right Things: all A’s in high school; cum laude in college; off to China for two years on a mission trip, and engaged to the Right Guy. I’m the One Who Went Wrong: I dropped out of high school and spent two years working at McDonald’s while scraping through my GED courses. My salary is barely enough to support little Maria and me once her worthless father took off. My mom’s over there today; giving me lots of sidelong glances during the wedding. Translation: you two started off the same, but she turned out right – and you didn’t.
I look back the million-plus choices I’ve made over these years and know it’s not that simple. Being Jenna’s cousin – even starting out the same– doesn’t make us identical, even if Mom wishes it did. All it means is that once we had twin dresses. I’m glad her life turned out so well, but I wish people – especially Mom – would stop comparing me to her. “You two used to be so alike,” she would say, while shaking her head. “It’s just too bad.”
What’s too bad? I’m only 23 and I’ve made the best of my life. I didn’t have a rich daddy like Jenna did, or all the right chances. Maria and I will be OK, even if we don’t ever end up as well as Jenna’s family.
I’m happy for Jenna. She has the life she wants and now she’ll have the husband she prayed for. He looks kind of boring to me, and her letters were full of stuff about them going to Bible studies and off to China together. He’s nobody I’d want, even if I believed in fairy tales anymore.
Look at the way she looks at him: it’s like a scene in a romantic movie; only this is better, because I know it’s real.
You go, Jenna. You get your happy ending, for both of us. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my own life and make the best of where my life has taken me. For today, I can join in the fun with you. I hope you’ll save me a place on the Hokey Pokey line. For just a few minutes, I can pretend we’re those girls in the sailor dresses again.
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