Mistaken identity

My baby brother is a 6’2” muscle-bound kind of guy, but that wasn’t always the case. Ten years my junior, Gerald was once a scrawny and skinny six, seven, and twelve-year-old. 

After I recovered from being angry with God for not gifting me a baby sister, I enjoyed my baby brother. I loved cuddling him. I loved making him laugh. I loved the way he seemed to love me.

I loved it—all of it—until I became my brother’s mother. 

After I got my driver’s license, Gerald often tagged along with me. We were in a grocery store when someone said, “Is this your little boy?”—as in my son.

Gerald looked young for his age, but that didn’t ease the sting for a 17-year-old who wondered if she really looked old—really old—enough to be a seven-year-old’s mother.

My daughter Kristen gets it. Only a year apart in school, she and her younger brother, my son Trey, took a science class together in college. 

Kristen was a front-row-seat girl. Trey usually sauntered-in sometime after her and always plopped down in the chair beside her.

One afternoon, Kristen called me. I could hear a sob trembling beneath each word.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Did you have an exam? Did you bomb it?”

“Yesssss,” Kristen said, then, “Nooooo. I did OK.”

“What’s the problem?” I said.

My mind raced from failed exam to car accident to injury and worse.

“The professor wrote a note on my test. He asked if Trey was my husband!” said my distraught middle child. “Ugh. That’s disgusting. I’m never taking a class with him again.” 

They say everyone has a twin out there somewhere—someone you don’t know who looks a lot like you and vice versa. I probably would not recognize mine if I saw her. 

Seldom do we see ourselves the way others do. I haven’t heard it in awhile, but a couple of times strangers said I resembled singer Carly Simon. 

Nothing against Carly, but it would be more to my advantage if I sang like her. I don’t.

If we’re talking about famous people, I’ve often been told I look like a younger version of Jane Fonda, particularly when I’m sporting a short haircut.

I know. I don’t see it either, but I wouldn’t mind being as fit as Jane Fonda when she was my age or at any age. 

I never, as in ever, mentioned that particular comparison to my father. Dad liked everyone. He could forgive anyone—anyone, but Jane Fonda.

Not long ago, I attended an arts festival with my mother and my sister-in-law Gail. We admired the work of various artists, meandering in and out of myriad tents that held treasure after treasure.

Every now and then, we struck up a conversation with one of the masters behind the paintings. An engaging, silver-haired woman told us about her husband’s patience with her “hobby” and explained her inspiration for one particular piece. 

“What is your relationship to one another,” she said.

“This is my mother,” I said, then I glanced toward Gail, “and her mother-in-law.”

“So nice of you and your wife to hang out with your mom,” said the woman.

Silence, then laughter. Lots of laughter. Gail and I have often been mistaken for sisters, never wives.

That brings to mind my much younger brother Gerald. He and I were hanging out with our mom after she had had her bionic knee installed.

My brother, mother, and I kidded around with a friendly nurse. After I left, the nurse said to Gerald, “I’d have joked with you more, but I didn’t want to upset your wife.”

Game over. I win.

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