As the oldest sister of nine, Melanie is very watchful and protective, and ready to let you know your options and which one you should take.
Here are three stories about Mel.
Our cousins were coming out to visit one warm spring weekend. Horse back riding and a barbecue was in store, not to mention a fun time playing with kids we hadn’t seen in a while. Only problem? Not enough horses or saddles to go around for everyone.
Obviously the ones who wouldn’t be able to ride horses that weekend were the ones who normally get to ride horses all the time. When it was time to saddle up every available kids’ horse, then horses that older kids got to ride, I was resigned to follow along the expedition into the pasture in a truck. I was okay with that, or so I said to everyone. At 12 years old, I had to show them I was mature enough to handle this kind of disappointment.
My dad had other plans. He gave Melanie and me the option to ride her horse bareback. I was up to the challenge, even if her mule-headed, stubborn, spotted appaloosa was the orneriest one we had on the farm. She was apt to kick other horses if they got too close. Despite this, she was a great cow horse.
Going through the pasture I had traveled thousands of times was not too different without a saddle. We just had to be careful going up and down hills since there was nothing to hold us in our seats or grab onto. (Did I mention this mare inherited the appaloosa’s short, spiky mane-impossible to grip in an emergency?)
Most of the morning-long trip was forgettable, until the end. A quarter-mile away from the barn, Misty (an appropriate name for the darkly spotted mare) decided she had enough. We were told to NEVER gallop home. Horses get used to doing that and then turn into a runaway horse whenever it was time to head back. I guess we thought better (as if the passenger ever really gets to decide such things) and took a slow gallop to pass by the other horses.
Next to the pond, as Misty galloped by, she decided to simply resign herself by putting her head down. Loping along, Melanie (still making the decisions) decided she was done riding. As the distance between Mel and I grew, my only thought was where are you going? I soon found out as I followed her path–down the horse’s neck and onto the ground, my head landing ever so softly on her boot.
The horse, triumphant in her mission, stood a few yards away, gloating in her victory by nonchalantly eating some green grass.
They say that if you ever fall off a horse, you have to get back on. I did, but not on that horse. My headache and unease at getting on her again was enough to climb on the back of a saddle of another for the last quarter-mile. Melanie assured me that I was fine, but she also let me know I wasn’t being a wimp or a sissy by choosing so.
I suppose that experience brought us together because she let me hang out with her and her friends when she was in high school. Six years her junior, I didn’t realize until I was her age how cool it was to have a little sister hanging around. At a dance during an after-harvest festival, I found out how cool she really was. I had my friends to talk to, but I kept checking in, per her responsibility as an older sister’s promise to my parents to keep an eye on Chrissy and me. So I approached her.
Wait. Is Melanie drinking a beer? Surely not. We didn’t drink in our family, unless it’s at communion. Did we? On the way home, I asked her about it. “I was only pretending to drink out of an empty can so everyone would leave me alone about it,” she told me. I believed her, emulated her, had no reason to doubt her.
I believed her for 10 years.
Finally, I confronted her about it and she didn’t have to say a thing. Actually she couldn’t say a thing because she was laughing so hard.
After she went to college, and brought a boyfriend back home, I wouldn’t leave her alone. Luckily, though, my place was not next to her at the dinner table. Luckily, I say, because our old farmhouse sloped a little and her boyfriend (now husband) sat right in the middle of that slope. The table was also against a wall, pushed back far enough to be able to fit everyone around. If you have ever had a bunch of little kids eating supper, you know how many times milk is spilled. Per meal. One sister flew to the right, Melanie flew off towards to left to get a towel, and the boyfriend (now husband) sat there thinking what in the hell? With milk on his lap.
Fortunately for him–and Melanie–he never cries over spilled milk. But I think he did wonder what in the world he was getting into.
Ever the protective one, Melanie takes the responsibility seriously as Eldest Sister. It’s not a job I would want to have, especially when the younger siblings make up neat nicknames for the one left in charge most of the time. Melanore, Smellanie, Mean Aunt Mel…but the one I remember most is Friend.