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Thursday, 25 August 2011


By Joanne Zimmermann

I was four years old when my world fell apart.

I was, in my childlike opinion, the darling of my parents’ world! They were very good parents and I went on a lot of jaunts with my dad.

I stayed with friends of my parents for a few days and when I came home, there was this bundle with reddish-gold curls and it was, ugh, a boy.

In my little girl mind, this was a HUGE threat! Everyone came to see him and seemed to be SO thrilled. Their attention seemed to have shifted overnight. How could that be? I just could not understand what happened. Were boys somehow superior to girls? And he was so cute, to top it off.

Of course, I could not admit feeling threatened; that would be naughty. But somehow I became fearful that my parents might abandon me in favor of this new “toy.”

I began to be obsessive in my compulsion to regain my throne. When it snowed, I went out and made not one snowman, but a whole lineup of snowmen! My mother recalled later that she was so surprised to witness my huge effort. At least that got her attention!

I seemed to no longer want to leave home; swim lessons at the Y ended in tears, pre kindergarten was the same thing. I am sure my parents were puzzled but of course, they were busy with that other project.

I have a picture of me holding “Jimmy” and now it is as plain as can be; the look on my face was of pure disgust, kind of clumsily concealed, behind a funny smirk.

Joanne and jim 1939

I am sure parents have no idea what goes on in the minds of their children while growing up. It is amazing that we all somehow overcome some of these erroneous assumptions and grow up.

I think it must be easier for second and third children; they move into a scene already formed and have no preconceived ideas of false grandeur.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I never had that problem but my older sister did when she had to compete with twin girls.

I'm an only child, but I have no doubt my opinion would have been similar. My son got his nose knocked out of socket when his sisters were born and had a hard time adjusting - at least to the first girl.

The inspirational 97 year old Marion Rosen, who developed Rosen Method Bodywork, states that one of the most traumatic things in childhood is the arrival of a sibling along with moving from one town or country to another, and loss of a parent through death or divorce.

Joanne - Thought provoking story!

You were fortunate to develop mechanisms to handle jealousy at such a young age.

My three sisters and I were all four years apart so my first real encounters with being jealous hit me hard when I became seriously interested in the opposite sex as a young teen. - Sandy

Great piece as always Joanne..I am oldest of 4, my sister and I, l9 months apart seemed close until she went away as a child, 7years old, upstate rehab for what they thought first was polio and turned out to be Huntington's Chorea..She was only home for days when she darted into street and was hit by a car,fractured skull and off she went again to recuperate..by then there were two more, only boy and two years later another girl..I think I was jealous of first sister because my Mother worried so much about her..sounds so mean and nuts doesn't it? But when we talked about it years later, our Mother died very young..my Sister admitted she knew how I felt & used it because of little brother and sister who were there on her return..to show how these relationships can be hurtful..years ago as adults we were both at a family function, probably a funeral..one of my Aunts, who knows why, said oh, dear you were always the smart one and she was the pretty one..Adults, what are they thinking when they make those pronouncements? Now that I guess I qualify for that "elder" status, I aim to be careful..funny I never talked or wrote about it, but when my Brother died few years ago the sisters all met in Cleveland for his funeral and my sister brought up that moment & said she never saw me look so startled and upset & when I said, it was mean thing to say, even if that's what she thought or felt or knew..and my l9 month junior sister said-well, you always were smarter so it seems fair that I was prettier..thru teary eyes, I felt like my Mother was there with us all somehow..childhood and we still wonder why folks want to rush up to be teenagers and "grown-ups," so to speak..felt good to share that..Hope your Brother was a prince among brothers, mine was..

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