My cousin Alison taught me a lot about being an individual, loving yourself, showing grace in response to difficult situations, and perhaps most importantly, ways to avoid the ire and anger of adults or those in authority by playing sweet and innocent. My cousin Joey and I bore much of the brunt of her very real capability to smile and look sweet while Joey and I, even doing charity work with Mother Theresa by our side, would have some how come off devious and conspiring in our appearance.
The only physical fight I have come close to having in my life was in defense of Alison at the age of 8 or 9. Beautiful though she is, sweet though she can be, Alison was born differently and not in ways that are significant but which brought about the attention of immature jerk-children who made fun of her hand which she was born with and lacks the middle fingers or her two eyes which are different in color. To me, that was just Alison, never something I paid attention to. To some people it was the thing they chose to pick on to make themselves feel better. Alison was and is different. But not for those reasons.
Alison taught me at a very early age that being different was okay and as I reflect now on her approach I see how much strength she showed at such an early age. She didn’t cry at these insults, she often didn’t even respond. She rose above all of it strengthened by a belief in herself and the providence of God’s creation. Though I don’t think I knew it at the time, it was her model for being who she is and accepting who she was that helped me do the same at various times in my life. Even today, as her life and mine have taken pretty non-traditional courses that don’t fit the model, I take strength in the way she loves her life and embraces the goodness of it each day.
Happy birthday, my dearest cousin. I think the world of you and always have.