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The Sisters Jackson are all very different; when confronting a problem, our preferred solutions are, in order of birth: 1) Smartassery Leavened with Intellectual Brute Force; 2) Punching, Leavened with More Punching; 3) Innocent Confusion so Mind-Blastingly Incomprehensible that Other People have Pitched in and Solved the Problem within Five Minutes.
This last strategy is the sole demesne of my youngest sister.
Waaaaay back on this date in 1989, my family welcomed home the final member of our own little Jackson Five: Kaitlynn Michelle. My sister Kim and I were wary at first – after all, it had taken seven years for us to get used to each other, and for the seven years before that I had enjoyed the benefits of an exclusive contract, as it were, on the whole “cutest kid in the house” gig. But as soon as we met little Kait, we were smitten, as is anyone who talks with her for more than five minutes. My baby sister is sweet, if somewhat impetuous, and although common sense will never be her boon companion, her heart of gold usually picks up the slack – which is another way of saying that you can’t stay mad at her, even if you wanted to do so and weren’t under arrest/on fire/fighting off the hyena she’s accidentally released from the zoo while pushing random buttons.
As we celebrate Kaitie-Winnie’s (this has been her nickname since toddlerhood, bestowed upon her by my friend Brian for reasons that shall shortly become apparent) entry into the world of legal drinking and whatnot, I thought it would be nice to share with you, my friends, some of the things that, for me, define the Kaitie-Winnie Experience. She’s someone you want to know, I assure you.
1) Fashion Clowns of China-Japan My baby sister is many things: a talented artist; a skilled photographer; a first-degree smartass (I have no idea where she picked THAT up) and the only person able to make me laugh so hard that I nearly pass out. That said, she is not, shall we say, possessed of an intellectual bent. It is my theory that Kaitlynn’s emotional and spiritual intelligences are so massive that there’s little room for the intellectual sort, which explains why her belief in both the “Country of Europe” and the near-mythic realm of Chinajapan persisted until we were well into the previous decade. As a toddler, like many children my sister loved to make paper dolls; hers were very colorful and vibrant. They also, for reasons unknown to me, inevitably had the couture of a runway model and the scribbled-on faces of meth-smoking Juggalos. These were quickly dubbed “Fashion Clowns,” and when asked about their origins, my sister explained that they, like just about everything else with which she was unfamiliar, came from a land called “Chinajapan,” across the ocean and “somewhere near the country of Europe.” As a result, “Fashion Clows of Chinajapan” became not only a catchphrase around our house, but a song and dance as well. At the request of my sister, I have tactfully refrained from presenting it here, but perhaps if we ever meet in person, and you out-bribe Kait, I will perform it for you.
2) Buddoh on the Wo-Wo Twax As a child, I had a debilitating lisp. It was bad – I made Daffy Duck sound like Edgar Elocution, Master of Speech. I went through six years of speech therapy, and eventually learned to stop coating the world in a fine mist. Kaitie Winnie’s problem was different: she was born with Eustachian tube issues, and as a result the entire time she was learning to speak she mimicked what she heard, which was Charlie Brown’s Teacher Under Several Feet of Mud . As a result, Winnie had a widdow tendency to tawk wike dis until surgery and speech therapy ironed things out in elementary school (Kim, it should be noted, had no discernible speech problems, other than failing to stop once she started). However, before these corrective measures, Kaitlynn introduced herself as “Kaitwin” to others, and so my friend Brian bestowed upon her the nickname “Kaitie-Winnie,” which has stuck ever since. During this period, of course, there MAY have been some occasional, good-natured teasing by parties who shall remain nameless.
As a result of this teasing, my sister would often become angry (or as angry as Kait is capable of becoming) and threaten the source of her frustration with the worst thing her mind could conjure. Being only tangentially connected to reality, her mind produced threats that were at once hilarious and slightly disturbing, as when she threatened to take my friend Craig and “tie him to the wo-wo twax wif a can o buddoh.” I’m not sure how a can of butter may be employed to tie someone to the railroad tracks, “Perils-of-Pauline” style (or, for that matter, if butter even COMES in cans), but if anyone could think of a way, it’d be Winnie.
3) SHE’S BLIIIIIIIND!!!!! Kaitlynn’s heart, as I mentioned earlier, is both enormous and made of solid gold. She would give you the shirt off her back, assuming there aren’t too many buttons and she isn’t distracted by something shiny and wanders off. She is ferociously – FEROCIOUSLY – protective of her family, and even as a child would leap to the aid and defense of anyone she felt was being attacked or slighted (this is an admirable trait that was cute when she was a toddler – now that she’s six feet tall and possesses the strength of an Amazon, it’s downright terrifying). Such was the case when she was in kindergarten and my aunt Irene (who is legally blind) volunteered to take her to class one day during a visit. They walked into the building and my aunt Irene asked the receptionist where the kindergarten was located; the receptionist, of course having no knowledge of Irene’s condition, pointed down the hall. Irene, aware that some motion had been made, said “I’m sorry, which room?” and the receptionist pointed again, apparently with an expression of mild exasperation, saying “Right down there.” Before my aunt could explain further, my sister let go of her hand, grabbed the edge of the desk and vaulted up to face the startled receptionist, screaming “SHE’S BLIIIIIIIIND!”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they were escorted to the room without further incident.
4) Shootout at the O-R-A-N-G-E Corral Despite being sickly and waifish as a child, my sister has grown over the years to rival me in both strength and stature. She is, I’m afraid to say, probably stronger than I am at this point – which might seem irrelevant to you, but I’ve got about 500 Indian Burns and games of Mercy on my tab. We’ve always been pals, Kait and I (which is good, really, because I’m not sure the house would’ve survived if we’d been given to physical conflict), but occasionally, as the two strongest people in the house after Dad (who, even in his 60s, is the most terrifying man I, or you, will ever meet. No, I’m not kidding. This is a man who beat up a Green Beret over something HE CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER. Just sayin’.) we would engage in little contests of strength (our other sister, Kim, is both the smallest and toughest of us – an arrangement we all agree is best, because if Kim had been the strongest as well, Kait and I might not’ve survived childhood).
One day, we were at my parent’s house – I had moved out some years before – and Kait was home from junior high. We were joking around, and she made some smartass remark or another, to which I responded by hurling an orange from the nearby bowl at her head. She ducked, then picked it up and threw it back. Before we knew it, we’d both stocked up on oranges and were throwing them literally as hard as we could – which, as it turns out, was pretty damn hard. Laughing our heads off, we tried to smite each other with Florida’s organic shotputs. When one citrus missile thudded against the bathroom door Kait was using as a shield, there was a faint cracking noise that said to both of us “Hey geniuses, you might want to knock this off before Ma gets home and puts you both in the Juice Tiger.” We were still cracking up, but we called a truce and hurriedly cleaned up the house as best we could…which, as it turns out, was not so great, given that tears were streaming down our faces and we were doubled-over from laughing like idiots. Still, we almost got away with it until Ma discovered a rim of orange pulp running across her kitchen cabinets where a wayward orange had found its mark but escaped our frenzied cleaning.
I have to say, though, that hands down this is my favorite memory of Kait, except for
5) THIS (captured moments before she devoured a human and returned to Zombie Headquarters):
Happy Birthday, little sister. Your adventure is just beginning!