Opaline, TierrineWe all find our callings in different ways. Sometimes it’s because we have a skill from birth. Other times it’s an “ah ha” moment late in life. Perhaps a teacher or mentor tells us what we should be doing, and we agree – either actively or passively.
And for some their calling is found with the simple words: “Hey! Look what I can do!”
Uli was born for the spotlight. Unfortunately she was the 3rd child of eight – smack dab in the forgettable middle – so she needed something extra to get the desired attention. She was never gifted in elocution, only funny on accident, drew anatomically inaccurate stick figures, sang like a cat in heat, and lacked the “cooperative spirit” necessary for team sports.
Uli seemed destined to receive attention merely for her poor disposition and had only two friends: me and my best friend. Frankly, I didn’t like her half the time, but as the 4th born of the eight, we were stuck with her. Our parents had designated me her keeper (yes she needed a keeper). How’s that work considering she’s older than me? With much tribulation for me, let me tell you. But she’s not just my sister, she’s my twin.
Although we’re twins, Uli and I couldn’t be more different, and bicker more than we get along, but Uli did have two things going for her. Even as a child she had amazing control of her body, and she was utterly fearless.
This second trait usually just meant she spent her life in trouble because no parental threat deterred her, but one fateful day these two traits finally came together. We were maybe seven or eight and being dragged about the market by our mother – Uli’s punishment for refusing to help prepare dinner the night before then eating our younger brother’s portion in addition to her own. We weren’t exactly rich so that meant the rest of us had to share our food with him. Not only did I lose part of my meal, as Uli’s keeper I had to go with them to the market. I could’ve killed her.
Perhaps that was the reason for what happened next. A new pavilion was being built in town, and four lavishly carved columns had been erected, each about 15 or 20 feet in height (it’s hard to measure these things when you’re young and short). One minute Uli was bouncing gravel off a wall so it nearly hit me while I yelled for our conveniently deaf mother, the next I was maliciously daring her to climb the columns.
In my defense, I never thought she’d be able to do it – even if she were capable, surely someone would yank the brat off the recently painted columns. Someone did try. Uli bit his arm and kicked him in his gut. At the time I’d hoped they’d put her in jail for the offense.
But then Uli continued climbing, shimmying up the column, using delicate detailing for finger and foot holds up and up. She pulled herself onto the flat top and stood victorious, feet spread, chest out, hands on hips.
“Ha! Thought I couldn’t do it didnja Olis?” she called down obnoxiously. Of course she had to drag my name into this. That moment of condescending superiority should have been enough for her and normally she would have then slid back down to face the music with an unconcerned smirk. Except a crowd had gathered.
Drawn in first by the bitten man’s howling pain and anger, then curiosity as to why there was a crowd, people stood riveted at the sight of a little girl dangerously far from the ground. Adults panicked, parents counted their children, Peace Guards ran to fetch winged assistance, but our peers were awestruck – some of the cynically cool older kids even cheered.
Uli finally had her audience, and she was drunk on the attention. So as my mother shrieked, realization dawning that it was her hellion on the column, Uli did a dance.
“Hey! Look what I can do!” she called, taunting the edge, moving ever closer. The audience gasped, held its breath, then the youths cheered as she moved away unharmed, bowing. As mother screeched at Uli over the noise a 12 year old boy spoke to me. “Isn’t that your sister? She’s winged ridiculous!” High praise indeed from a 12 year old.
“Yeah, she’s my twin.”