The Shortest StrawSeptember 28th, 2016
tags: love
The Shortest Straw

An excerpt from my book...

    One Monday night when I was five my family was having Family Home Evening as usual. We were a family of eight back then since your aunt Trina hadn’t been born. We must have filled every chair in our small family room as my father taught a lesson about strengthening the family through obedience to church principles. The evening would have included a prayer, a song and a special treat from mother, usually cookies. 
    Mother was a seamless garment, moving from room to room, from child to child, from one guiding principle to another with fluid intent. She was the perpetually preoccupied center around which our world rotated, and her word was law. 
    I remember this Monday night in particular because Mother had proposed an extraordinary idea. “Since your father is so busy he doesn’t get to spend tome alone with each of you, we’ve got a special plan. Starting next week Dad is going to take you, one at a time, on a special dinner just the two of you.” 
    Nothing in our home was more valuable, more reverenced, than our father’s attention.
    “Connie will go first and then each of you will take your turn.” Oldest to youngest was the usual arrangement for dispensing anything in scarce supply.
    “I’m always last!” I asserted.
    “That’s because you’re the youngest,” Connie reminded me.
    “It’s not fair!” I persisted.
    In an uncommon display of leniency, my mother softened. “It really isn’t fair that Ardyn is always last, so we’ll draw straws.” Drawing straws was Mother’s system for randomly assigning Saturday chores. It made everything fair. She went to the broom closet and returned with six straws extended from the palm of her hand. 
    Each of us pulled a straw with a sense of anticipation you’d expect to see at the birth of a child. My older siblings held up their straws of varying lengths for everyone to compare. I did the same, holding my stub up next to the others. I’d drawn the shortest straw.
    A concert of collective laughter poured over me, the joyless sound of those on familiar terms with shame. My cheeks burned and an overwhelming wave of numbness took over, distancing me from the unbearable experience of being the butt of my family’s joke.
    “Well, Ardyn, it was fair.” My mother’s voice cut through the frenzy. “It’s bed time for all of you now.”
    Aunt Kathryn and I had twin beds in a room at the end of the hall. Mother gave us each a peck on the forehead and the room fell silent. In the quiet I felt my covers move, lifted back, and then a nudge. Wordlessly Kath pulled herself next to me on the bed. Her head on my pillow, I stretched my arm over and around her, my legs fitting into the back of her knees. Kath and I fell asleep together like spoons.
    When I remembered the story this time it was me with my arm around Kath, but I could just as easily remember it the other way around. At any given time, I couldn’t tell you who was holding onto who, and it hardly matters. When we were alone, away from the competitive influences of a family trying to prove itself, Kath and I held onto each other. The unspoken assumption was love, love big enough to include both of us.