According to some studies, people in a group or in a family will accept roles either ascribed to them or fitting into a situational experience. On one committee at Behavioral Health, Nancy Plane was our person of extreme optimism; Clarissa Woodworth is almost her equal in the “things are just grand” department, but she also has the ability to see pieces of a plan that are going to need something more (or less). While my perspective leans to the “this isn’t going to work” side of a project, Toni Woods brought the very real “dollars and cents” and “this gizmo has to connect to that thingamabob” thinking that wrapped everything into a package.
I can’t remember now why we were a committee of four, or whether we accomplished anything but we knew exactly what “role” we’d been assigned and there was no question that we would not change “mid-stream.”
Soon after you arrive on the planet, you find you’ve been assigned a role to play in the family production. An only child is responsible for the entire script, up to including set design, lighting, sound and costumes. The oldest child is frequently “the smart one,” regardless of whether that is genetically true or a matter of expectations and attention. Because my next-younger sister was a quiet and mostly content baby, I cornered the mom market. That ensured I would learn to read early and, in turn, that gives any child a head start in school.
A second-born takes on the character of “the middle child,” “withdrawn and retiring,” and the youngest is, of course, “the baby,” the spoiled darling of both parents and sometimes older siblings. In larger families, there may be more than one of each “type”, something new and different, or something from another planet. Henry Selters (I think he was from Center) attended ASU with me: he was an exceptionally bright young man but very, very strange. Henry claimed to have come from the planet Entish. He may have been a fourth or fifth child.
Micki was less withdrawn than she was a dreamer. Her ability to daydream is legendary in our family, and duplicated only by fourth-born Stevie. They could imagine more pictures in clouds than most people see in commercials during the Super Bowl. And determined! Once Steve or Micki decided to do something, it was as good as done. While I waffled around, trying to decide on a major in college, Micki knew, from the time she started grade school, that she was going to be a nurse. She never wavered.
Lonny was less a spoiled brat than he could get away, unscathed, with the darnedest things. When Lon was “caught in the act” of some misbehavior in a junior high classroom, the teacher asked if he intended being a sheep, following whatever his friends did, for life, he replied, “Baaaaaa.” His teacher might have had a better chance at carrying out discipline if he hadn’t been laughing.
We’ve had a couple of Scarlett O’Haras, the “tomorrow is another day” procrastinators, one or two Camilles, able to wither and die right there on the sofa in front of you to achieve maximum dramatic effect, and an assortment of other award-winning roles. My younger sister Jami thought she was going to star in a western movie, as a horse.
This probably doesn’t come as news to anyone reading this, more like a reminder of how little things change in families over the years. We just learn to laugh about it a whole lot more as we get older and see the same patterns occurring in our own families. “Oh, she’s JUST like her Aunt Micki (‘cause she’s SURE not like me)!”