Please enjoy a few snapshots of my life: my bedroom, my brother, my name, my grandpa, and a bad memory.
When I walk into my bedroom after school each day, I am greeted by a cotton candy explosion; pink shades, pool curtains, pool chair, ombre pool bedspread, pink zebra-striped rug, and pool dresser.
As soon as I get home I like to check my appearance to see if my hair and makeup stayed in place since the morning, if my outfit looks okay, etc, but I can never look in the mirror between 2 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon because that's when the sunlight shines directly through my five large windows and distorts everything. I always drop my backpack on the floor as I walk in, next to my dusty guitar case.
When I sit down to do my homework, I always spend a few minutes situating my phone and school books on top of the clutter already piled on my desk. Granted, my desk is big and white, with plenty of space and plenty of storage; thanks Pottery Barn. But regardless, I can never actually see the white surface because it's always covered from corner to corner in to-do lists, notes, empty cereal bowls, and one or two textbooks open to last night’s reading.
My desk is positioned against the wall and above it, glittery butterflies climb the wall and there is one hanging from the ceiling above my chair. Some nights when I drown in homework, so most nights, I look at the ceiling and wish that I could just fly away with that yellow butterfly. Be free.
Another thing I think about when I looks at the ceiling is how I wish my overhead light was brighter. I have one light in the center of my cieling and it always dims significantly after being on for like 40 seconds because my dad bought the energy-saving kind. He might as well paint our house green and hang a ‘reduce reuse recycle’ sign on the front door because my dad is the ultimate environmentalist when it comes to that kind of stuff. Figures, because he spent eight years getting his Harvard environmental science degree.
Speaking of my family, my room is very different from my brother’s room. We are only across the hall, with only the bathroom separating us. His room is mostly navy but he has red stripes on his bedspread. His desk and dresser are dark brown to match his hair. He has only two windows, but you can see the sunset through them, whereas mine only picture my neighbor’s house; our neighbor that plows our driveway in the wintertime. I usually have my full-length mirror positioned so that I can see into his room from mine, but this never actually happens because his door in closed 90% of the time. He only comes out to eat dinner, go to the bathroom, and leave his empty cereal bowls by the stairs.
He always goes to bed later than I do, but I take a really long time to fall asleep, so often I lay still awake an hour past when I originally climbed into bed, listening to him brushing his teeth and whatever else. It sounds like he’s taking a shower in my closet because there is just a wall separating my closet and the bathroom. These are the nights when I jump out of bed, find my way across the room, usually tripping on a pile of clothes in the dark, and ultimately open my door to walk out and yell at him to be quiet. I wish my bedroom was soundproof. But, I also wish it had a water slide and a spiral staircase. You can't have everything. My mom tells her kindergarten class “you get what you get and you don't get upset!” and you know what? I'm happy with what I've got for a room.
Having a brother is like having a pet dinosaur; hard to miss in a crowd, constantly eating, and always tracking dirt into the house. But you put up with it anyway because, really, how many people have pet dinosaurs?! Those who don't have one won't understand the struggles associated with it, but they'll also never experience the benefits. Admittedly, I don't know the benefits of having a pet dinosaur because they haven't been around for thousands of years. But I am an old pro at dealing with a -pet- brother. His name is Nick.
I should mention that he is my older brother, which is the first benefit: the older sibling always gets the blame because he's supposed to be the mature one. But a note on what I just said: it’s only valid for the first decade or so of life in my experience. So, to contradict myself, as I've gotten older, roles have changed because my parents expect me to be the mature one, or at least they yell at me more. Or maybe they yell at me more because I argue with them more, so I'm actually less mature. I'm confusing myself.
But regardless, even without the first benefit, the second benefit is much greater and will always be valid simply because he will always have a few years on me: I get to learn from his mistakes. He taught me to drive at an even pace instead of going really fast then slowing down right before the turn or else you might crash your mustang turning into the student parking lot. He taught me to always get up half an hour earlier in the morning so I can get to school on time and not have to be that awkward person walking into class five minutes after it started. He taught me to do my homework in the afternoon and not to leave homework for the morning, or else I might be late to school and then, well, you know what happens from there.
The third benefit is that he's always there for me. This is so cliché, I know, but it's true! One example is when I felt so alone because I was literally sitting smack in the middle of two couples, at an otherwise empty table, at a party where I didn't know anybody except at my table. He relates because he's never dated anyone either, so I texted him and said I wanted to leave but didn't want to be rude. He texted back right away, giving me an excuse and was prepared to fetch me a ride. In the end I stayed at the party, but that’s beyond the point.
All in all, having a brother has really impacted me. Once he impacted me with a golf club and I had to go to the emergency room. But here and there, I assure there have been more psychological and emotional impacts too. Growing up, he was always my partner in crime, my friend, my enemy, my opening-Christmas-gifts-at-the-same-time-so-it’s-fair buddy, my psychologist, my creditor, and my neighbor across the hall. He’s 18 now, so I know he won’t be all these things forever, but I know he’ll always be my pet dinosaur, my favorite, my brother.
Some girls are named after flowers, their grandmother, or even a famous actress. But not me. My name is Kelly, and it has no reason for being my name other than that it is something to call me. When I ask my parents why they named me this, they say just because it sounded like a ‘happy’ name. Wow, thanks Mom and Dad, that’s really deep. It means ‘green’, and it also means ‘champion’. I like the latter better.
My name is short like me and I have no nickname. I mean, I do have one, Kel, but my brother ruined it years ago because when we were little he would always call me Kel when he was mad at me. “Kel, you’re so annoying!” or “Stop it, Kel!”.
One thing that is really annoying about my name is that it seems to be more common of a last name than a first name. In fourth grade, our song-flute teacher’s name was Mr. Kelly, and when he introduced himself, my classmates thought we were married! Haha! That isn’t even how it works, but we were young.
Another thing I don’t love about my name is how it is gender-neutral; I would much rather prefer something more feminine, like my cousin’s name, Alina. In fact, when I was little I was particularly envious of that name, so I told my friends to call me Alina, and even went as far as to sit my parents down and ask to change my name. I can’t remember what happened when I asked this, but I am still Kelly like 8 years later so I guess it didn’t work out.
Grandpa’s mustache is grey and scruffy, kind of like him. He’s pretty old, as most grandpas are. A little weathered by the times, one might say. He never shaves it, except for once, but that’s another story. For the most part, though, I’ve only ever known him to have a mustache and beard. His mustache has a secret, though: half of it is actually just nose hair. Without being too graphic, his nose hair is grey like him and long like this sentences. Speaking of, don’t get me started on his habit of talking. My nana says he’s a faucet, that when you turn it just a little bit for a drop or so of water, the whole thing explodes and you get a waterfall instead. Better call the plumber. He even talks more than he eats, which amazes me to this day. I’m surprised he can even get a breath in between his words, let alone a bite of a muffin. Certainly nobody else gets a word in between his; not even while he’s chewing! Speaking of which, sometimes if he’s eating something particularly messy, it get’s stuck in his beard and/or mustache without him noticing. Then twenty minutes after the meal he’s still walking around with crumbs dotting his beard like sprinkles on cupcakes. I would tell him, but like I said, it’s hard to get a word in with him. Mostly because he talks so much, but also because he’s half-deaf. It’s an ironic set of characteristics, but it makes for quick entertainment on lazy sundays when my dad calls him on the phone and I hear him shouting into the phone because he’s trying to say something to Grandpa, and keeps getting interrupted. But back to the crumbs thing, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and I have all just accepted it and don’t judge ole’ Grandpa because he’s too old to be taken seriously. Not seriously as in him as a person, but that we just laugh off all his quirks and don't judge him because we've seen it all from him and aren't even surprised by him anymore. I speak for my whole family when I say that we love his hour long chats, his big appetite, and his cargo shorts. We love his (literally) suffocating hugs, his white-but-now-more-yellow knee socks, and of course, his mustache.
My Guitar Recital
Barely into a month into 2015, I was already having a bad year. Someone had better call Taylor Swift, because there were definitely tears on my guitar the night of January 14th. This is how it all happened: It was recital season at Indian Hill music school. I’d been playing guitar for about two years thus far, but, to be completely honest, I was falling behind with my practicing leading up to recital. School had started and homework started to pile up, so I just didn’t have time to practice like I could in the summer. So, the combination of my slacking off and the challenge peice awarded to me by my teacher for recital formed a recipe for disaster right off the bat.
Leading up to the recital, I tried my best to get the song down, but I kept messing up. One day, when I finished playing, my teacher said “that was okay. When you mess up in recital, just keep going”... Wow, great pep talk. Anyway, finally came recital night. There was a warm-up session before the recital, and then the real-deal was at 7pm. Warm-up was only half an hour long, but it deflated my confidence a pin to a balloon; small, but gets the job done. First in the train of unfortunate events, my teacher called me out on my outfit. I wore a black knee-length skirt and a white top; something my chorus teacher would’ve been proud of. But my guitar teacher pointed a wrinkled finger at me and at her other girl who was a student of hers and asked me why I wasn’t wearing pants like the other girl was. I’ll tell you why: because my chorus teacher always stressed that leggings were not pants and didn’t belong, if anywhere, in concert. But my guitar teacher gushed over this girl's leggings. I should note that this was not a private conversation between my teacher and I, or even between the three of us. The other girl, and all the other students performing that night, and I were standing on the stage before the empty audience of chairs because we were working on placement or something. So yes, my first humiliation of the night was in front of everybody, not unlike my second one.
We each got a practice run on stage in front of the audience of students before the parents/real audience came in. I went on, I messed up, and I didn’t keep going. I lost my place in my music and announced it to the crowd before picking it up again. My cheeks were burning and internally I had given up before the song was even over. When it finally was, tears threatened my eyes so I looked at the ground and walked carefully, shamefully, off the stage, leaving my dignity behind me on the steps. I avoided my teacher and went to the bathroom. She met me in there. After I washed my hands she handed me a paper towel and asked if I wanted to do the reital. I said no. Obviously she didn't think I could and I’d already done enough damage.
During the recital, I sat in the lobby with my mom. She spoke nicely to me, told me that my skirt was pretty, yet I couldn't help but crying. I wept for quite some time, occasionally hiding in the bathroom to blow my nose and attempt to straighten myself out.
When the recital ended, my guitar teacher came to us and handed me a cookie and some punch from concessions. She said that things we care about are harder and that I kept messing up because I cared about the music so much that I didn’t want to mess it up. I needed it to be perfect, which is why I kept stopping, losing my place, and didn’t keep going. I knew she was right and her words comforted me. But I still wasn’t okay. I didn’t forgive her, I dropped her class for a new teacher, I didn’t forgive myself, and I still cried even after I got home. But I forgave the music.