My Sister Rachel (Part 2): The Early Days

featured image: my sister and I in the "Buddy Buggy," I'm wearing my infamous bat costume and my sister is covering her ears probably due to sensory overload – this sums up our childhood well

Did you know that a set of female-female twins is called sororal twins? I literally learned that last month from a friend (who is not even a twin!)

I’ve been sorting through all of my memories of my sister, trying to decide which stories would be the best to share. There are too many to share exhaustively on the blog, so I’m trying hard to narrow it down. If there’s a story or a specific question you have that you’d like me to elaborate on, just ask!

All of these stories are taking place back when I was a child or young adult, so at a minimum, I’m writing about events that happened at least 16 years ago. That’s a lot of time for memories to morph and change, not to mention processing an event as a child is WAY different than experiencing an event as an adult.

Some of the stories I share will be funny, crazy, and exciting (some of them were funny only after the fact.) Some stories will be hard to read, sad, and might be triggers for painful experiences you’ve had in your own life. My goal in sharing all this is to offer my unique perspective, and to help my readers develop empathy and compassion for others.

So, here we go:

I guess it makes sense to start near the beginning, back in our younger days. I asked my mom to send me old pictures of my sister and I, and she wanted to be sure she sent me our “very first picture together”:

(Very funny, Mom!)

Probably the earliest back I have clear memories with Rachel would be when we were in preschool. We went to “Side By Side” preschool, which I doubt exists anymore. The whole premise of the school was to integrate children with disabilities and regular-functioning children – obviously my sister and I were a great asset because we added a “plus 1” to each of those categories. Somewhere inside a box at my parent’s house, there’s a newspaper article that was written about the preschool and my sister and I, simply because it was so novel to integrate “regular” kids and “special-needs” kids. (This was back in the 90’s, remember.)

Honestly, I don’t remember interacting very much directly with Rachel at preschool. This was not unusual – much of the time we were doing our own activities side by side (ha! see what I did there!) but not actually together. Rachel did not really play with other kids that I can recall. One of the listed signs of autism includes “inability to play ‘pretend’ games, preferring solo play” and I would say that described Rachel well.

I, on the other hand, LOVED pretend play! I mentioned my “infamous bat costume” that I’m wearing in the top image. I wore this on Halloween to be sure, but I also decided that I wanted to wear it on other non-special occasions. So, I frequently would wear my bat costume to preschool (again, NOT on Halloween.) One of the other little boys at the preschool, William, was infatuated with my bat costume. He was non-verbal, but he would make all kinds of excited noises when he saw me in my costume.

William and I, Side By Side preschool, circa 1991 – also please note my Little Mermaid tennis shoes

The other things I remember about Side By Side preschool were a teacher whose catchphrase was “Uh-oh spaghettio!” and this really awesome pretend-play McDonald’s drive thru window, complete with fries and the little red McDonald’s containers to put them in. Seriously, that was the best toy in the whole place. I also remember doing a gingerbread man hunt around Christmastime, and a hunt for “gold” (which ended up being a spray-painted rock) for St. Patrick’s day. (Don’t knock the rock – I kept that in a special box for years.)

The last big memory I have of preschool involves me, a boy named T.C., and my general stubbornness (yes, I was stubborn back in preschool too.)

I have always loved books and reading for as long as I can remember, but at this point I couldn’t yet read on my own, so I had asked one of the teachers to read me a book. He told me that he would only read to me if I told T.C. “thank you” for throwing away my trash (that I had apparently forgotten to throw away from lunch or snack time.)

T.C. had large glasses and was in a wheelchair. I remember that he also had challenges with his motor skills, so he was limited in his ability to move his arms and legs. He also did not speak very much. Despite all that, he had thrown away my trash for me. I remember leaving the teacher and really pondering whether or not I would actually tell T.C. “thank you,” like I think I actually sat down and really thought about it for a while. I eventually decided it was worth it to swallow my pride and say “thank you” so that the teacher would read me a book. (Just to be clear, I do try to throw away my own trash these days, though I still have trouble with that stubborn pride of mine every once and a while.)

So here we are at the end of the post, and you might be thinking, “hey! You barely wrote about Rachel at all in this post! It was mostly about you and other kids at preschool!” Well, that’s true. And initially I almost thought about throwing out this post for that reason, except that it actually is a great representation of what our relationship was like at this stage – that “side-by-side” relationship instead of one with direct interactions and communication. Rachel was someone that was just always “there” – I never knew anything different and didn’t really think twice about it. That would change as we got older, and unfortunately our direct interactions were not always positive ones.

Thanks for reading. You can read part 3 here!

2 thoughts on “My Sister Rachel (Part 2): The Early Days

  1. I think that is true for many siblings. My son and his sister were close until he caught up to and passed her mental, emotional and physical functioning. Then, it became very difficult and the best he could do at times was live “side by side”. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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