We had such fun with my sister Cheryl on our train ride to visit her daughter Caren and her family in Minnesota last year that she agreed to ride on the Texas Eagle with us to Springfield, Ill. Today.
I’m pretty sure Harper will do alright on this trip (he guides well inside train stations and hotels, it’s walking along sidewalks and crossing intersections that freaks him out) but it is oh so reassuring to know that my big sister Cheryl will be along to guide me, too. Cheryl has always had a way of boosting my confidence, and we always, always have fun together.
I grew up the youngest of seven children. Cheryl is fourth in line, and this explanation of middle child syndrome describes her perfectly:
Many times they go in the opposite direction of their oldest sibling to carve out their own place of achievement and relish in the satisfaction of being capable of doing it on their own. They are sensitive to injustices and much less self-centered than their siblings (first born and last born), which allows them to maintain successful relationships. They are put in the position to learn social skills that are extremely useful, not only within their household, but within their social community.
We were invited to Springfield by the Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) to attend the Author Breakfast at their annual convention. The way I understand it, Illinois authors do a sort of speed-dating thing during breakfast: we sit at one table for a short time to describe our books, then hustle over to the next table for a short time to describe our books, then to the next table and so on. The idea is to make such a good impression on the school librarians that they’ll ask for a “second date” and invite us to their school to do a presentation sometime.
I will not be at all surprised if we get to the hotel tonight and Cheryl recognizes someone she knows in the lobby. Any time I am in a crowd with Cheryl and she sees someone that maybe just kind of sort of looks familiar, she does what any other self-respecting middle child would do: she approaches them and introduces herself. And if they don’t happen to be the people she thought they were, Her warm smile and friendly greeting wins them over, and she’s made a new friend. Its amazing.
And really, Cheryl is amazing. She was a teenager when our dad died, waitressed at Mario’s through high school and helped Flo raise we three younger ones. After she got married, she stayed in Elmhurst, our home town, and her house became a second home to us. She and her husband Rich raised three terrific kids, and now they have ten beautiful grandchildren. Cheryl is Flo’s caretaker, keeping track of her schedule and escorting her to all of her doctor visits.
And with all that going on (or maybe because all of that is going on?!) she’s agreed to this quick getaway with Harper and me, too. The quintessential last born self-centered youngest sister doesn’t say it nearly enough, but I really do appreciate everything Cheryl has done — and continues to do — for me. Once we’re “all aboard” I’m going to have her join Harper and me (and all the people she will recognize or meet!) in the club car for a toast. Here’s to Cheryl, and to all the other middle children I love so much. Cheers!