Happy Birthday, Gretel

What’s this? Another birthday post, after I’ve already written about birthdays and anniversaries three times this month? Allow me to explain. While I’ve written many times about the other birthdays on my blog, I know for a fact that I have never once written about my sister’s. Why not? Because . . . I don’t typically barge into other people’s social media space to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Not my typical MO. I almost never wish people on Facebook happy birthday, even. I probably should, since I know I appreciate the birthday wishes, but it seems too expected, somehow. I have never liked doing the expected. (Which sounds funny, seeing as how so much of my life seems very conform-y. What can I say? I like to conform in my own way, and part of that is not conforming in certain areas.)

So why am I making an exception today? Because I have Permission. You see, Gretel’s husband reached out to her siblings to see if they’d send her a birthday message in this socially distant time. A good prod, since I rarely reach out to anyone specifically just to reach out. I’m all over Facebook, I figure. It’s a constant reach out by yours truly, and all you have to do is reach back. Sending an email or text message just to Gretel felt very un-Bryce-y, so I asked if I could write a blog post, instead.

He thought that was a great idea, which shows he’s either too trusting or just that confident I’d have nothing but good things to say about my sister.

“What are you going to write about?” Denisa asked me last night when I told her the topic of today’s post.

“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s part of the fun about blogging. I’ll sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and see what comes out.”

I won’t tell you how old my sister is, but I will tell you she’s enough younger than I am for me to have opined on the subject of her actual birth. While I don’t remember saying it, it’s a matter of accepted family lore that after seeing what life was like before Gretel and after Gretel, I consistently said she was a “frubblemaker,” and that we were better off without her. (So I had difficulty with “trouble.” You try saying that word when you’re under five.)

For the first while, I remember being frustrated by her. She was always trying to do whatever I was trying to do, and since what I really wanted to do was hang out with people who were older than I was, that got in the way of my plans. (I’ve said before on the blog that often what frustrates us most about other people is the things they do that mirror what we do, that we’re potentially not that happy about ourselves. Gretel was trying to hang out with the older crowd, just as I was . . .)

There are certainly a fair number of stories I could share about my sister. Some of them I’ve sworn not to share, and I certainly wouldn’t share them on my blog, but she knows what they are, and I’m pretty sure that if she’s reading this, then she considers it a pretty nice birthday gift that I’m staying quiet about those stories, even given such a lovely platform. But I will share a few things:

  • Gretel is responsible for an inordinately large amount of the way my life has turned out, because she’s the one who suggested I apply for a job at BYU’s library. The Periodicals Department, to be specific. She’d gotten work there when she got to BYU, and when I returned from my mission, she suggested it as a great place to work. They paid a bunch ($8.25/hour, people!), and it wasn’t too hard, and there were lots of nice people there. “Not too hard” and “paid a bunch” was all it took for me to give it a go, and I worked there with her for quite some time. I don’t know where I would have ended up if I hadn’t taken that first job. Probably curing cancer, so maybe we should all blame Gretel for that. Way to go, Gretel. 🙂
  • She was also there on my first date with Denisa. I’d set her up with a friend from the Jerusalem Center, and the four of us went to the Tabernacle up in SLC for a choir concert.
  • Growing up the children of divorced parents, we ping-ponged back and forth across the country, often twice a year. I remember many airports and airplanes with Gretel over the years. You learned the tricks of the trade doing that multiple times. My favorite lifehack back then was asking the flight attendants for a pack of cards. They’d just give you one for free! We had many, many Delta decks . . .
  • She was also always up for watching me play video games. I know that sounds both silly and boring, but she sat there and watched me play multiple Final Fantasy games over the years, and I can’t say for sure if she ever played any of them herself.
  • That said, I also watched many different Miss America pageants over the years with her, and she even had to put up with me continually making fun of the contestants. (I’d give them nicknames as they appeared, based on whatever popped into my head at the moment. Then I’d express horror when ‘Twinkletoes’ won the whole thing.)
  • She was always a softy for animals. Almond, our cat for my entire life growing up, once climbed a tree so tall he wasn’t sure how he was going to get down. We were convinced he was going to starve to death. Wait long enough, and make a cat hungry enough, however . . . (Almond lived for another . . . 10 years after that? Give or take.)
  • I didn’t spend a ton of time with Gretel in grade school, as I was too far ahead of her for us to be in the same school. But I spent a fair bit with her in college, working at the library and taking multiple classes together. (She was also an English major.) She also took basket weaving with Denisa multiple times.

In all seriousness, I have no idea what it’s like having me for a sibling. I’m definitely not the sort you see in the movies. I rarely talk to my brothers or sisters. I was never the sort to sit down and share all my deepest fears and fondest dreams. For a person who won’t shut up online, I can be pretty contrarian in person at times, choosing only to speak up with I think it’s worth it and I have something to say that might make a difference. I think that might be frustrating to someone who wishes her brother was a bit more in touch.

That said, Gretel’s done a great job putting up with me over the years. I don’t see her very often at all (once every couple of years), since she’s in Utah and I am definitely not. She’s got a bevvy of kids now, so I imagine “socially distant” applies more to her adult interactions rather than how much she’s around kids right now, but I hope she does something fun to celebrate the day.

Happy birthday, Gretel! Have you tried convincing your children they should just watch your oldest play Final Fantasy for the next few months? I mean, there are like 15 of them out by now. You’d probably be good to go through at least the next couple of years, and think of all the reading practice they’d get!


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