Have you ever had someone insist that they know you or that they have met you before, but they just can’t remember where? This happens to me all the time. They struggle, and tap their finger on their chin or hug themselves and rock back and forth on their heels sometimes, until I take a stab at putting them out of their misery.
“Perhaps you are thinking of one of my sisters.” I say. “I have four of them and people often mistake one of us for the other; we are the Stephenson girls who grew up near Melbourne and we all went to Strathroy High School. Marsha is a teacher, Kathy and her husband have a printing business in London, Janice and her husband farm near Cairngorm, and Jeannie was an X-ray technician in Waterloo, but she and her family live in Vancouver now. Maybe you’re thinking of one of them.” About 50% of the time they pick the sister they know, with just those few clues.
Either that, or they have just put me through the paces in order to get all the information they can out of me, so that they can steal my identity (which is what one of my friend thinks will happen to me with all this indiscriminate blogging). A lot of good that would do them— sometimes even I don’t want to be me!
Yes, we girls do look very similar in one way or another and we do see our shared resemblances, but we are also quite different in so many ways that the frequency with which people misidentify us all is comical. There are definitely other things at play here, and lots of clues to help figure out what’s going on.
I was at a bazaar in the nearby town of Ailsa Craig, just before Christmas, chatting with my niece as we admired some handcrafted jewellery at one of the tables. Suddenly a woman that I had never met before turned around quickly and said. “Oh! I thought it was Marsha behind me; you sound exactly like her, and I see that you look like her too! You have to be Marsha’s sister!”
Another time, my friend Dianne told me that she was in Strathroy, doing her grocery shopping when she heard the sound of heels clicking in the next aisle and she knew it was me. “I could just tell it was you by the sound of your walking, you know, so I hurried to get to the end of the aisle and when I turned the corner I yelled “Hey! Yvonne! And this other person turned and looked at me and I was so shocked because it wasn’t you, but she looked just like you. Then she told me she was your sister Janice. You know you sound exactly the same when you’re walking!” When pressed on that point Dianne said that we sound like we’re clicking along in an incredible hurry, just in case you think that we stomp around like a couple of Incredible Hulks or something.
When my Dad was bedridden in the hospital during his last illness he told me with a big smile, “I knew that it was either your mother or one of you girls coming when you were way down the hall, you know you all sound the same when you’re walking.” —quite a complement really, to be compared to my Mom whom Dad adored from the tip of her cute little shoes to the top of her head. My Mom danced as a child once in Carnegie Hall. To this day she will break into a spontaneous little tap-dance whenever we ask her to. She’s still such a little show off, all 5 foot nothing of her!
Another kinesiological similarity is the Stephenson girls’ predisposition to enthusiastic gesticulation. (We like big words too!)When we are excited about something, which as a rule is pretty much always, we tend to enhance our verbal expressiveness with enthusiastic gesturing. That sure sounds a lot better than “wild hand and arm flailing” which a few haters have actually called it. (I just wanted to be cool and use the term “haters’ there just now, but I guess I can’t be cool if I just used the word “cool”— it’s so passé. )Sorry!
“Sorry!” is my next point actually. I have pointed out to my female relatives that it’s time to take back the “Sorry”s. We have been sprinkling them around like smuggled- in salt and pepper on nursing home soup. “Sorry”s aren’t appreciated by the people in charge, most of the time. They may be necessary occasionally, but they annoy the Heck out of people when used in excess. A close friend mentioned to me once that she noticed that my sisters and I say “Sorry’’ a lot more often than anyone else ever would, and wondered why that was. I told her that when you grow up in a house full of people, you learn that it’s best to smooth out everyone’s feelings as you go along. It’s easier to stay on good terms with everyone than to get a pencil lead broken off in the palm of your hand because you moved it a little too close to someone’s Twinkie! Telling her that worked even better than yelling “Back off!” would have. Surreptitiously perhaps, but she definitely gave me my elbow room.
Nature versus nurture will always be the enigmatic question. Are we heel- clicking walkers because we have our father’s tendency to walk incredibly fast? Or our mother’s tap-dancing feet?
Is there an unknown genetic connection to the Italians through my German ancestors that causes us to wave our hands like Italian nonas when we speak? Or, is it simply a habit each of us got into when trying to hold our audience’s attention as our seven siblings competed, likewise, to be heard?
Do we all sound alike because we inherited my father’s small mouth and sinuses? Or, is it that we picked up our mother’s colloquiialisms or Pittsburgian inflections? I do know that we oldest three kids, Marsha, Keith and I really upset our first grade teacher, Mrs Clark, by starting school with our alphabet firmly entrenched ending with a Zee instead of a Zed.
Whatever the reasons, I am so glad that the sisters I have, and the Dad that I had, and the Mom that I have, and my brothers(all three) helped me to be the me that is me.
I did not mention my two youngest brothers Jim and Don by name. They helped shape me into the me that is me, too. From carrying each of them, as babies, on my right hip so much of the time when I was a kid, my right hip is a half-inch lower than the left one. But I don’t mind. It reminds me of just how much I loved them then, and love them still.