When I was four years old, I cracked Zachary’s head open on the stove. My mom had left the two of us downstairs while she went upstairs to take care of Noah, who was an infant at the time. I guess that’s what happens when you have three kids under the age of five.
Zachary and I were playing a game we had made up in which I would run and drag him on a blanket behind me along the hardwood floors through the kitchen into the dining room. After a couple of smooth loops, I whammed Zachary into a handle on the stove. Our game was cut short, and Zachary ended up being rushed to the emergency room for stitches.
Zachary forgave me, but I developed a fear of blood that still persists.
A few years later, I sat on the couch with my grandparents and my uncle, watching “Sister, Sister” (that Disney show with Tia and Tamera Mowry). We were waiting for a phone call. I hoped that when the phone rang, I would finally have my own little sister. A few hours later, that wish came true.
My siblings and I went about our childhoods, putting on shows together every night after dinner. I would dress Zachary up as a girl and we would perform dances. Once he became old enough, Noah became the lighting designer, and soon after that my sister Rebecca replaced Zachary and me as the lead actors.
Lately, people have been asking me how I like being the oldest of four children. “That’s a lot of pressure,” everyone says. “They must really look up to you.”
Sophomore year of high school, my family sat around the kitchen table, each in our implicitly assigned seats, for Mother’s Day dinner. We had eaten a late brunch at my grandparents’ house earlier that afternoon, so we kind of just sat there picking at our plates. It was that awkward time of year when the sun stays up until long after dinner, so it was late, but still felt like midday. At the end of our dinner, my dad asked if I had lied to him earlier that weekend.
“No,” I replied.
“I’m not going to ask you again, Rachel, did you lie?”
But then the tears started running down my face.
Zachary took my younger brother and sister upstairs without batting an eye. I sat at the kitchen table with my parents as I continued to cry.
That was the first time I had lied to my parents since the eighth grade, when I went to my best friend’s house without any parents home. We told our parents it was just girls, despite the fact that three boys ended up riding their bikes over to hang out. But that’s a story for another time.
My mother looked at me, on the day that was supposed to be about her, and tears began to collect in her eyes as well. “You’re our first, Rachel,” she said, “Your siblings watch everything you do.”
When our conversation was over and I walked up the back staircase, my sister stared at me with wide eyes.
During the best night of my life (my Bat Mitzvah, obviously), my younger siblings stood up with a poster board and an acrostic poem of my name. Some of my notable traits, according to them, included “Responsible” and “Hair (tons of it).” My 12-year-old brother described my “narcissistic tendencies” under the letter “A,” which stood for “Attention-getting.”
Standing there in my bright yellow, floral-rhinestone-patterned dress, I acted like I didn’t want the attention and pretended to be embarrassed as my brothers and sister regaled the crowd with stories of my most annoying habits in a brutally honest tell-all. The worst offense? My nightly routine of walking into each of their rooms to say, “Goodnight, love you.”