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Jessica Cronenberger: Being the middle sister proves to be a blessing

Sisters. The designation elicits a range of images and emotions. Way back when, on my parents’ little round RCA television, the harmonious Lennon sisters were pert, sweet and all-American songbirds, with matching dresses and smiles. Ugh! The sisters in “Petticoat Junction,” on the other hand, were animated, conniving and eager to find trouble.

The Hiltons, the Simpsons, the Pointers, Elsa and Anna, Serena and Venus – famous sisters instantly recognizable and admired. Well, at least notable.

Luckily, I’m one of three. We’re not famous, in movies, on stage (well, maybe a karaoke or two) or on the tennis courts, but what we have is priceless. Each of us is a world apart, yet magnet close.

Being in the middle has afforded me the heightened perspective of being younger and older, and the different vantage points have been most rewarding.

Having been always told what to do as a child by my older sister, I looked to her as the authority figure. She always had a self-assured temperament that translated, “I’m right. I know how to do it, so listen to me.” She seemed to know how to do things and carry them out without fuss. If she wanted to make a dress, she did. A costume, she did. I admired her confidence that it would turn out good. It’s the very quality that made me try my hand at it.

The eldest child often has the unsolicited task of baby sitter and caretaker of siblings, and my sister was no exception. She really had a good handle on that. I don’t know if she was born with feistiness or if her role as “person in charge” just molded her that way, but it was such a necessary trait with four younger siblings.

In contrast, I was more compliant, shy and quiet – sort of milquetoast – just minding my own business. Yet that confidence she had was enticing.

My baby sister, on the other hand, was cute and silly and had two older sisters to make her things, take her places, find her pacifier and have fun with her. She’s the “Doctor Dolittle” of the family, with a soft spot for anything with fur. She was more of a free spirit, with a tenderness of heart that oozed sympathy for anyone in need. She was part tomboy and part princess. She could climb trees with her brothers and dress the dog in drag.

In contrast, I didn’t think I could pull off “silly,” and though I love animals, I am highly allergic. Tree climbing was not my thing; just dolls, writing and drawing. Again, pretty undefined, but with possibilities. However, I did long for a sense of that wistful, happy existence, free of boundaries.

So, I’m not sure how I came to be the person I am. Did I evolve from the in-house influence or was it DNA? I guess it could be a combination of both, but by my midteens, I eventually emerged an entirely different sort, and continued to evolve from there. I was hiding in my cocoon until I felt I could carry it off, I guess, cherry-picking some traits I liked from both of my siblings and making them my own with subtle distinctions.

I finally found my talents and use them to make my life easier, more fun and rewarding. I like being “one of the group” without a title of leader or follower, just right in the middle. I mediate well and can be most empathetic, because I see things from both sides. So, being in the middle should not have the bad rap it does. It’s a great vantage point from which to determine your place in this world.

Happy National Sisters’ Day!

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