I was a pushover of a child. I am a pushover of a grownup. But I’m growing. (Someday, I will be able to look someone in the eye and say of their outfit, rudeness, restaurant pick, musical taste, “I don’t like that.”) In the meantime . . .
I have a tough little sister. She has established her reputation as alpha in this household, or at least of trying pretty hard to be. My mom has a refrigerator magnet that reads, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
My family offers a variation: “If Alicia ain’t happy . . .”
Mom urged me often during our growing up years to stand up for myself, to say no to my monster little sister. Dolls, Barbies, horses, me: we all kowtowed to her rule. My brothers fought her rule, mostly through wrestling. But I figured out that saying no to her caused more suffering than it seemed to be worth (also that I was not good at wrestling). I bit her once, soon after she came home from the hospital and invaded my only-child world. The rest of her life, she has slowly and painfully repayed me for that moment.
JK. Did that creep you out a little? We’re friends.
My sister and I played basketball together in high school. (I’m nearly two years older, but it seems no one knows that.) The severest injuries I attained during my basketball career always occured in practice, always with my sister playing defense. I vividly remember, once, sprinting down the court and tripping over her knee (or leg, or something — whatever it was, it was hers), a moment of I believe I can fly, and then full-out, layout, body-slamming the ground.
I basically belly flopped. She was delighted.
But Alicia is most famous for the bagel.
After a long ride home from an away game, my sister crawled out of the car, old-lady shuffled down the hallway, moaning (also like an old lady):
I’m so tired. I’m so sore. I’m so hungry. I’m so tired. I’m so hungry . . .
And old-ladied right up to the counter and with all the effort she could muster
I’m so tired . . .
Lifted a pack of bagels from the bread box
I’m so sore . . .
And toasted one. To perfection. Oh, the agony.
She then began to apply a layer of cream cheese. Perfectly. You don’t know how I suffer.
She set one bagel half down, picked up the other. I sauntered up to the counter and, with one deft and unsuspecting move, ripped a piece off her bagel.
No one quite knows what happened next.
But there stood Alicia, clutching her precious stolen bagel over her prostrate sister.
Mom, the only witness, across the peninsula from us, watched me plummet out of sight. Somehow, before the intersection of bagel and my mouth, Alicia had transformed from feeble great-grandmother into bagel ninja, ripped it out of my hand and flipped me onto my back on the hardwood. Well, hello baby sister.
After a long psychological recovery (for ME), we shared the story with our friends at school. Some faculty picked up on it, and now she is famous. I am told that, years after her high school graduation, Bagel Day is still celebrated by a small population in her honor.