Alexandra, Hilary, Rebecca, Lauren, Abel, Cain & JosephSaturday, April 25, 2009
When I started this blog in January 2006 I had no idea what blogging was all about. It took a while for me to figure out how to move pictures around so that copy would wrap around them as in a magazine. But it was the content that took a while. Early on I decided to write about Rebecca, my oldest granddaughter (she was 8) and my relationship with her. At the time her younger sister, Lauren was 3. Lauren was a difficult child who did not like to eat anything and as things looked it seemed she would demand to be breast fed until her teens.
Lauren not only resembled and resembles my daughter Hilary but in many ways she is much like her in personality. When Hilary was 3 and her older sister Alexandra was 6 we drove in our VW Beetle to San Francisco. While there Hilary refused to walk with me or hold my hand and demanded to be held and carried by Rosemary. It made me furious and jealous. Because we had been teaching English in Westin Hotels in Mexico City we were given courtesy free stays in the best Westin Hotels. In San Francisco we stayed at the legendary St. Francis. One early morning we sat down for breakfast in the elegant dining room and Hilary began to cry. Soon she was screaming. A tuxedo-wearing waiter came to us and asked, “Madam, is there anything I can do for the young lady?" Rosemary answered, “I’m afraid not, unless you can bring her beans and tortillas.” The trip, thanks to Hilary, was a nightmare. We expected that her elder sister keep her company and take care of her. It seems now that Ale from an early age had the burden of being her sister’s watcher.
Through those years Ale grew up and was independent. She made friends easily and did well in school without really trying. In our Arboledas neighbourhood, which was on the outskirts of Mexico City, I was known as the man whose daughter would lie down on the sidewalk to sleep siesta. This is something that Hilary perfected by age 3. She also had the curious habit of looking at you by turning her head sideways so that both eyes coincided as if she were looking at you with only one of them. This sideways glance in Mexican Spanish is “mirar de re-ojo” and it generally unsettles most people. Some think it might be associated with “mal-ojo” or bad eye, a witch’s glance.
When we arrived to Vancouver in 1975 we both had to work so it was Ale’s job to take care of Hilary. I remember the first day I took Hilary to daycare. She cried and cried and I felt so sorry I almost brought her back home. For some years my cruel suggestion that if she did not behave I would take her to the daycare was an efficient method to keep Hilary in check. I regret that now.
School for Ale was simple and a social endeavour. She went to meet her friends and got decent grades even though she did not study much. With Hilary it was different. In school she was shunned for being different and only now have I found out that she was beaten up with frequency. She made few friends and for many years, our Vancouver evenings were spent with Rosemary working with Hilary on her homework.
Our proudest moment happened when we went to Hilary’s graduation at Simon Fraser University. Her Bruce Stewart had Rebecca (1) in his arms as she lined up to get her diploma.
It is difficult for me to answer the question as to which of my two daughters is my favourite. Perhaps when they were both young, Ale, as my firstborn had that extra quality that made me favour her. But as years have passed by I have come to understand that by deciding that Ale in her startling independence did not need too much of my attention and concern, I did not give her the affection she craved.
Now one is 40 and the other is 37. I seen in Ale more than a daughter but a real friend. We talk on the phone we, e-mail, we visit in Lillooet and it is very pleasant. With Hilary I feel that I am in the presence of my mother. She looks a lot like my mother and has my mother’s sweetness. I watch her take care of her daughters with a love an attention that rivals my mother's. Which is my favourite? About the only way I can safely answer that is in the way I answer to, “What’s your favourite rose in your garden? “ “It depends on the day, the week and the month!”
As Rebecca, 11, signals her own independence and approaches her teenage years I have now noticed Lauren, who at age 6, is sweet and loving. She no longer screams or cries at the table. She eats almost anything even though she must smell it if it is something she has not eaten before. She wants to be photographed while Rebecca does everything possible to avoid it. When I cook, Rebecca is at the computer or watches TV. Lauren brings the step stool and so she can watch me cook. She tries to help. Rebecca refuses to wear dresses. Lauren wants to wear dresses.
Which one is my favourite? Is this a fair question? This question became an issue with the first born human. And it seemed to make it all worse that it was God who in the story was the one who had made Abel His favourite. Jacob showered his son Joseph with more love and attention. His jealous sons sold him to slavery in Egypt. It would seem then that it is difficult to show impartiality with one's children. As on only child I never had that problem at home.
Lauren is endearing herself to me much in the same way as her sister did in years past. Children go through similar phases. Lauren is going through the “I like my grandfather” phase now. But I can also discern a peculiar difference. This peculiar difference is exciting and now I long to see not only Rebecca tramp into the house but also my dear and sweet Lauren. This is because it has taken me all this time to notice beyond how different they both are and how comparison is a silly method for showering one’s affection. It just happens.