My cousin Danielle and I were born six months apart to the day, but it would be hard to find two more different girls. She had buttery blonde hair; mine was a dark, chestnut brown. She was petite – smaller than average even – while I was tall. She was the second-youngest of a family of five; I was the eldest of three. But that wasn’t what adults meant when, through the sound of their hushed whispers, I heard them say Danielle was “different”. In our French Canadian families, they also said that she had “un léger retard” – a slight delay. Whether that was true or not, the differences I saw were to be admired and worn proudly as badges of honour.
As kids Danielle and I spent a lot of time together. Sprawled on our bellies on the floor, we would colour for hours on end. Her finished pages were things of beauty. The outer edges of the shapes were outlined with a thick, dark line of colour. Then, using light, feathery touches, she expertly filled them in, never once coloring outside the line. To my seven-year-old self, the ability to colour inside the lines was a much sought-after skill. Danielle also had a natural eye for colour. While I spent minutes trying to decide which crayon to use, she naturally gravitated to those that blended beautifully and harmoniously.
In comparison, my pages were crude and messy. When I expressed my frustration once, she calmly lifted her head and looked over. At first, I expected the smug look I saw in classmates who were talented dodge ball players. As team captains, they sometimes took pleasure in the agonized look of their peers, anxiously waiting to be picked and feverishly hoping not to be the last one standing. But that look never came. Danielle just cocked her head and looked at my work with interest. Then she offered pointers with a grace and generosity well beyond her years. If that’s what being different meant, I admired it.
Later, Danielle’s family moved to the country where they had horses. I remember riding behind her once through a field of tall grass. She sat straight, calm and relaxed in the saddle. Her long, blonde hair swung down her back and she looked for all the world like a tiny princess riding into the sunset. She had never had a riding lesson in her life, but she and her horse had a mutual trust and respect that can’t be taught. If that’s what being different meant, I admired it.
Life happened and Danielle and I grew apart. I hope she knows that she might be different, but that’s what makes her special.
This post was written in response to the daily word prompts provided by
Jibber Jabber with Sue for Day 22 (sound).