Well, it should be very clear by now that I'm not very enthusiastic about website maintinence. As a halfassed attempt at apology (to myself, seeing as nobody else reads this), I'm going to post the toast I gave at my sister's wedding. It gets really sappy towards the end, but that's kind of the point.
When watching old home movies of my family, there are certain truisms that hold amusingly constant-- Kate’s always eating, I’m always angry, Sam is always naked—but today I’m going to talk about the stereotype that often seems most apparent in these videos— that kate, even at the age of five, was clearly the boss of the family.
The standard family anecdote here involves my mother sitting down for a mother-daughter chat with Kate, probably in middle school at the time. My mom, angry about my sister’s hostile takeover of the family dynamic, finally blurted out “Kate, everyone is afraid of you.” My sister gave mom a long, hard look and coolly replied, “well, that’s a little pathetic, isn’t it?”
If there is a zapruder film of Regnier family character traits, it is one where my six- year old sister is directing and starring in a short play about a ghost in a haunted house. The haunted house is our basement, and the ghost is the three of us under a blue blanket. Kate is simultaneously narrating, giving stage directions, and serving as the head of the ghost; I am providing a sullen middle section, and sam happily takes up the rear, his own bare end occasionally peeking out from behind the blanket. This, in a nutshell, was our childhood.
Kate’s skills in sibling logistics and management, however, extended far beyond the entertainment industry. If I remember clearly (and who doesn’t remember being four years old in crystal clarity?), this was only one of a diverse set of responsibilities. Kate drafted the groundbreaking legislation governing sprinkler-running, ball-bouncing, block-stacking, and tag. She kept strict inventory on legos, disbursing them in a system governed by a quadratic matrix of flatness, width, color, and number of connective nubs. And she was a ruthlessly efficient general contractor in the erection of couch forts and puppet-show stage sets, effortlessly instructing us in the rules of composition and furniture tectonics as Sam and I heaved cushions, chairs, wicker cabinets and blankets into the correct form.
Indeed, our shaky sibling alliance would have devolved into complete anarchy without Kate’s steady hand. When her guidance was missing, my brother and I came up with ill-fated concepts such as human hallway chicken, indoor baseball, trampoline-throwing, and my notorious new sport, let’s hit tennis balls at the window. Sam and I thanked Kate endlessly for her benevolent lordship by teasing her, baiting her, and throwing rocks in the air, in her presence, while wearing helmets.
There was one bit of bossiness in Kate that I am absolutely in debt of, however: Kate decided one day that she was going to teach me to read. My absolute earliest memory is of sitting in bed with Kate as she read the same animal book to me the 5 or 6 millionth “last time”, with the excitement and patience that only a small child can muster. Not only did this gift require superhuman effort (because I can only assume, despite what my parents tell me, that I was then just as stubborn, slow, and easy to distract as I am now), but it also introduced me to the world that I am still in thrall with now, almost two decades later. I owe a great deal of my self to the things that I have read, and I probably would never have made it through those books if my sister had never decided to share what she loved in the world with her brother. Kate’s bossiness was just that; love disguised as instruction, because she wanted to be a part of my life just as much as I thank god I am part of hers.