Sharon, the only remaining sibling about whom I have not yet blogged, could have been my carbon copy in many ways. (I deliberately chose the words "could have been" and not "could be" because we ultimately chose very different paths.)
Sharon was child #7, the first girl after a string of boys. It was almost like Ma was starting over again. Sharon looked exactly like me (child #1), and Victoria, child #8, looked much like Katrina (child #2). And then Dad died from a heart attack caused by a hospital error, and there were no more children. (He had wanted 12 although he certainly did not have the financial means to care for the eight he had already.)
Ma had mellowed by the time Sharon and Victoria came along. Nonetheless, they all did experience the same range of abuse that I did: physical, emotional, and sexual. The amount and severity may have been different, but one relative or another ensured that they had experience with all kinds.
Unlike us older girls, the two younger ones had the protection of Rollie. They also had the homes of their older sisters. Just as Victoria came to live with me in Virginia as a teenager, so did Sharon go to live with Katrina in New York. Getting there, however, was no typical or easy task. Sharon, a truly brilliant student, especially in physics, caught the attention of her math teacher, Sam, who mentored her. With time, mentoring and empathy turned into indiscreet love, which brought the wrath of the school board down onto Sam, who was summarily fired. Once Sharon became an embarrassment to Ma, she had an open path away from the burning house. Ma called Katrina, since my hands were full at the time with Victoria, and asked for asylum there, never telling Katrina about the school scandal. Neither did Sharon until Sam one day showed up, proposed, and a marriage was planned.
That marriage took place in Michigan the summer between her senior year, which she finished in New York, and her freshman year at Michigan State University. It was quite a surprise for all of us -- except Ma, of course. All is well that ends well, however. Sharon and Sam have been married for more than twenty years now.
Seventeen years younger than me, Sharon grew up in a very different society. Doors were open to her that were closed to me. She could explore some of the interests we had in common, like physics. I remember my high school physics teacher telling me that it was a shame that I was a girl because I would otherwise make a very good physicist. (One of only 5 girls in a class of 40 students, I had the highest grade: 99% maintained over the entire year. However, my physics teacher was right. In the 1960s, physics was not a girl's field. So, I chose a different field: linguistics, the science of language, which prepared me for my international experiences. I have not regretted the decision.) Sharon, though, was able to pursue her interest in physics. She received a full scholarship to Michigan State where she maintained a 4.0 average in nuclear physics and was heavily recruited by a number of graduate schools. However, she chose to work with her husband in the field of computer science instead of going to graduate school, earning money instead of spending it. It is not a choice I would have been made, but then Sharon is not really my alter-ego. She looks like me, sounds like me, has many of the same skills (and lack of skills), but her choices have always been far more pragmatic than anything I have chosen to do.
More to come...