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I had a weird childhood. I know, everyone says that. But, I did. I was one of those kids that had weird things happen that they base after-school-specials on. Nowadays, it would be a Lifetime Movie – maybe even a mini-series – but back then my whole existence felt a little surreal. Like I was just sort of hanging on until the good part of the movie started.

I was a grownup from the age of 9, when my brother Dan was born. My mother was 9 days pregnant with him when his father was murdered by a guy on PCP. Any chance of a normal life for us bled out with Richard. With three jobs, and a fierce will to never accept charity, my mother somehow survived that dark time of grief, hopeful that better days were coming. Danny’s arrival February 19th was her reward and my salvation. He was the golden boy, cherished and loved by everyone that he met, with a smile that could eclipse the sun. My Great-Grandmother came to visit my mom and me and Danny when he was a few weeks old and asked if I was jealous not to have my mom all to myself and I said, “Certainly not. That’s MY baby.” And he was. He captured my heart from the moment I kissed his toes, and I made him fresh nanners with the Happy Baby Food Mill and we watched Charlie’s Angels together and made forts and played High/Fast. He cried when I left the house, and tried to go to school with me every morning. My poor bus driver Mrs. Detrich had to tell him he wasn’t big enough to go to school yet and he told her that he was a BIG BOY and she was taking his SISTOO and that was NOT NICE. I acted annoyed, but I was secretly delighted to have someone love me that much. He was the only certain thing in my life.

Now I have two daughters of my own, and each year I relish telling them the story of the day they were born. For Kelsea, it’s the play by play of the day including the lobster thermador that made it’s reappearance during labor as I projectile vomited it across my birthing room when the pain overwhelmed me (I slip that in as a little subliminal birth control) and all about the storm she was born in. Both literal and figurative. I say now that I fell out of my family tree as a tongue-in-cheek way to describe my painful, violent and very necessary split from the toxicity that just IS the family I was born into.

Except for Danny. He’s caught in the middle. Leaning way more away from me, but I understand. He’s a peacemaker and I am not. Kelsea is so much like him that I truly, to the depths of my soul, believe that God knew what was coming and gave her the personality she has as a gift to me. To remember MY baby each time she smiles, tells a joke the same way, raises an eyebrow, and calls me Mim, like Danny does our mom.

They were not raised near one another, but their cadence, demeanor, humor and compassion are as if they were separated at birth. It is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Like watching a ghost come around the corner.

In a few days she’ll head back to college after Winter Break. I wonder if her bus driver will let me on. I am a big girl, and taking her is not nice.