Another thread snapped out again. This time, over my younger sister’s banging home at 4 in the morning and waking the hell out of me. For someone who has been up doing “mommy duties” all day long, getting disturbed from sleep was like having your eyes gouged out in saltwater or your skull cracked open with a giant pestle, whatever that means. In a snap of a finger, I was up and jumping in rage and wakefulness. And so I let the words out, quick and rather snide, careful not to throw unnecessary sentences along the lines of my deliberate, or perhaps desperate, attempt to make her understand her fault. I actually waited for my words to penetrate into her juvenile ears. But in the end there was only her catty silence and her clumsy unsteady movements in the dark, followed by her long heavy breaths and her rolling eyes. l spoke angrily of her coming home too late, (or was it too early?), of her laughing loudly with her friends by the front porch, of her banging the door each time she comes in, of her switching the main lights on. Before I even knew it, the list has already reached quite a distant, and I was left with my own thoughts, almost at a loss for words, at the appalling differences of our upbringing.

When I was her age, my Mom would kill me for making even the slightest noise at bedtime. Back then it felt like even breathing was a crime. I literally had to tiptoe my way into places at night. I had to grope blindly with only my memory as an aid for navigation.  I had to scramble my way into the dark because switching the lights on would cost me harsh hateful words. I remember growing up into a home that is no home at all but rather a prison wall with its rigid rules and regulations. I remember days spent by the stairway counting each step as I would count each mistake I was so accused of. I remember nights on the kitchen counter speaking with my father about things I was too young or too fragile to understand. I remember being grilled down to the marrow of my every shortcoming as if that was all I ever had. I remember being nailed to this god-forsaken cross and being forced to carry the burden every parent should have had carried for their child. In my 12-year-old mind, there was only one question that screamed madly in me: Why? 

I look at my siblings now in an attempt to find an answer to this lifelong question. Not that it changes anything at all, or provides any sort of meaning to experience. What I understand now is that the answer is not an answer at all, not in a form of a response or an explanation, but rather a completion of turn. In the end all I am left with the idea of youth as something quite different from the image that I see in the faces and smiles of my siblings. I see in them a kind of freedom I have never known or perhaps never will know in life. I see in them a kind of carefree surrender even in the midst of exacting circumstances, almost like that of a bird.

The apparent absence of Mom and Dad in our lives, and the appointment to me of their roles, brought me a panorama such as I have not seen before, a kind of wisdom in the words of Confucius:

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.”

I am with them on their level, merely a sibling, a sister. I figure there is no need for me to impose my dreary episode of childhood upon theirs for that would not be fair. Youth for them is still a dream in candy clouds and rounded hilltops. Life for me has long been over, but they have their whole lives ahead of them. I watch them in their sleep sometimes and think of them as grown-ups and how they would one day kiss away their damages as I had kissed away my own. I think of the years that are waiting to happen, of the lives that are waiting to be done. I pray to the universe that they live a long and grateful one.


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