Sunday, November 8, 2009

Siblings, Part 1: Katrina

In addition to Rollie and Victoria, about whom I have blogged earlier, I enjoy a bonded relationship with a total of seven siblings although only two are still in or near our rural Maine town. Katrina used to address her letters to Ma Bernard and her 8 pups, and the postman in our tiny farm community knew where to deliver them. Alternatively, Rollie called us the 8-pack.

I was the oldest. Victoria was the baby, and Rollie was child #5. We differ sp distinctly one from another in our interests and life paths that one would think we came from different families. Yet, even today, we remain an 8-pack. Survival of brutal daily abuse cemented that bond in blood and tears, literally. Just as our lives took different paths, so did the ways in which we escaped what my brother-in-law called "The Burning House." (I posted his poem about the burning house here on Mahlou Musings.)

Katrina, in birth order next oldest to me, reflected, as far as Ma was concerned, all the good characteristics that I lacked. Katrina was obedient; I was rebellious. She was polite; I was saucy. She worked hard for her A grades; I got them by merely breathing -- academics were to me just commonsense: once I had read something, I knew it (and often, by comparison, analysis, or deduction, I knew more than what I had actually studied). Katrina seemed to be born compassionate; it took me years to learn compassion.

Likewise, while I expected to live into adulthood and had quite a sheaf of plans for my life, Katrina had no plans at all, fully expecting to die in childhood at the hands of our parents. When she found herself still alive upon her 18th birthday, having graduated from high school and legally able to move from home, she felt astonished and confused.

When Ohio State University offered her a financial aid package (Dad made only $5K for a household of ten, and Ma did not work), she accepted with relief and gratitude and left the burning house bewildered as to a path to take through life. At OSU, working with the career guidance service, she found her niche: career guidance. So, she took a degree in counseling, wanting to help other students who encountered bewilderment when presented with the array of possible career choices. Then, she stayed on at OSU and earned a master's in counseling.

Continuing to be my polar opposite, unlike me (the gadfly, the gypsy, the world traveler, the job hopper always enticed by a new challenge), Katrina settled down as a counselor at a small college's career guidance center, where she has helped students for 30 years and going strong. Over time, she became director of the center, and at one point served as the president of the state's association of career counselors.

Katrina, like Donnie and I earlier, rescued Rollie, who, after his stint with us in Montana, return to Maine to rescue Sharon and Victoria from cousin Billy's sexual abuse, and subsequent ejection from the farm into the woods by Ma, ended up at Katrina's apartment in Ohio, where she was by then attending graduate school at OSU. She found him a job -- he was 18 by then -- and through his job, he found a wife who bore him three sons. Rollie has remained in Ohio to this day. By the time Katina finished school and left for her current job, we all knew that Rollie had become self-sufficient.

Sharon, though, had fallen into trouble right about then, a story that will be told in a later post. Fleeing Ma's anger, she found a welcome at Katrina's new house at essentially the same time that Victoria moved in with Donnie and me. There Sharon finished high school, married, and received a full scholarship to Michigan State University, where she studied nuclear physics.

So, once again, Katrina's house was empty. She had her students, though. Katrina never married but she always had family around her: Rollie, Victoria, her students -- always her students -- and then, suprise, my daughter, Lizzie.

In recent years, Lizzie accepted a 2-year visiting professorship at a near-by college. Lizzie, like Katrina, loves stability. (Lord knows, she did not have much stability as a child, having attended nine different schools and lived in eight different states and one foreign country.) Aunt and niece clicked like two magnets drawing near each other and spent many weekends and vacations together.

Katrina could retire now if she were to want to, having spent so many years in one institution, but she is still young and still has many students to help. Helping students, I believe, is her way of thanking God for helping her to escape the burning house.


  1. I loved this snippet into your childhood and seeing how different you and your sister were. The obedient one vs the rebellious one. Many thanks, I really enjoyed it.

    Greetings from London.

  2. Nice meeting you. May I know what should I call you?

  3. Oh Wow... when I saw your header I had to pop in to comment.

    I've seen that hive and bees recently in a very different setting... for peace in a most global sense.

  4. Dear Clan Sister. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Your comment reflects the reason I added the second part of my sentence that she was what we needed. God does not put someone where they don't belong. That came to me as I was writing. Did you want your name added for the drawing?

  5. HI,
    Thanks for visiting my blog! It's interesting how you and your sister are total opposites. My daughter and son and completely opposites also! My daughter is rebellous and my son not! The list just goes on and on! Nice to meet you and I will look forward to reading your blog! Thank you!

  6. I enjoyed your blog and I can totally relate to you. I am also coming from a big family of 7 siblings. I am the third. We all grew up very close to each other. Though now we all live far away from each other. We stay in touch and keep the closeness. Thanks for your blog. It brought me back lots of memories.

  7. Well, you're all obviously smart. Very interesting blog. I hope you keep writing.

  8. You've all helped heal each other, it seems!

  9. It is amazing how two people (your parents) produced such highly intelligent children. God had a purpose, that much is certain. Although I love reading about your family and how you all grew up, it still breaks my heart. You all had a sense of perseverance that was huge, that's evident. I've begun to write about my own life a couple of times, but stopped when it got to a point where I might tell a secret or several that I'm not sure I want everyone knowing. I will continue to pray for you and your family, and I will pray for my own strength to write what is in my heart.


  10. Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for stopping by my blog. Come back soon!
    This was interesting. My girls are also so different from each other. I have an academic, an athlete, a designer/artist and a cook/chef...LOL!
    God has certainly blessed you!

  11. 8 kids?! I have 4 sisters and I thought that was a lot!
    I have an older sister that is my polar opposite and a younger sister who is like a twin to me.

  12. What a wonderful story...born into heartbreak and pain...but escaping and soaring above it all...this is so full of hope!!! I love your have such a rich story to tell! ~Janine XO


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