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Horse Eyes

Oh, Brother!

I grew up the youngest of 3 siblings in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the ’70’s. In my memory, it was a great childhood.
Memories are kind of interesting, aren’t they? Sometimes I wonder if I have certain memories because I have seen a photo. Am I actually remembering or am I conjuring based on an imagined roadmap that likely has a foothold in reality based on images or stories that have been told to me?
Having two older brothers was good in so many ways; I was significantly younger with 5 years between my middle sibling and I and 9 years separating me from the oldest. I felt zero sibling rivalry. There were no sisters with whom to fight over clothing or boyfriends. Being the only girl and the youngest, I had it pretty easy. My brothers would call me spoiled but it had nothing to do with material things. I say this because we simply did not have much in the way of material things. Being “spoiled” had everything to do with my parents being easy on me.
I’ve been told that I was a very compliant and obedient child. As my parents divorced while I was still quite young, I was compelled to spend quality time with my dad on the weekends that were allocated as his. As the years went on, my brothers opted out; they were old enough to go off on their own with their friends. 
I’ve heard many tales of how my dad was hard on my brothers. As I came to understand later in life, this manifested in a number of ways. There was emotional abandonment, lack of acceptance and a host of other things. But this post is not about that. 
I was different. My brothers always said it. I was treated as such. I chalked it up to my being the youngest and the girl my parents welcomed into the world after having two boys. 
I experienced a different father. My dad was gentler with me. He spent quality time with me, taking me on road trips, shopping and to amusement parks. I felt loved. 
Back to my brothers (both of whom I adore). I was subjected to some healthy requisite big brother teasing. In the winter, I remember Jeff (the eldest) – an All American high school football player – tossing me around like a football one year when we had a huge snowstorm.
Yes, I found this fun! The snowplows in Brooklyn would leave just enough room on a one-way street for a single car to get through. On either side, huge piles of snow stood for as long as it took for them to melt. That could be weeks and the snowbanks were higher than me by a lot. When the snow was fresh and clean and still soft before it got “packed in” – falling on it was like landing on a cold cloud and made me giggle.
My middle brother, Andrew was closer in age to me and would do his brother thing in different ways like asking me to get up to change the channel (before we had remotes) and when I would do so, he would invariably say, “Thank you, slave”. I would FREAK out and scream,  “Mommmmyyyy Andrew made me change the channel and called me his slave Waaaaaaaaa!!”(Side note: I know this is not sounding ok as I type the words and I am not condoning the “S” word. Please suspend your 2022 urge to express how awful it is – I already know. Please remember that this is a 9 year old boy in 1975!) 
Anyway, back to my point. Brothers + sisters.
Genes were always puzzling to me. I have brown eyes. Both brothers have light eyes. My dad too. Bluer than blue. I did not share this enviable trait. I remember getting Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo. There was a photo of a young girl with long, silky blonde hair in the ads and on the bottle. I asked my mother if I kept using the shampoo, would I eventually look like her? She said I would. (That never happened). I also asked about people who had plastic surgery. “If someone got a nose job, would their kids come out with the new nose?”
Not sharing physical traits with some family members came to feel normal but I was always aware that I looked different. (Another side note: I look a lot like my mom, so that assuaged lots of questions).

So, here it is. Jeff teased me and called me Horse Eyes. It drove me crazy. I cried to my mom as tattle tale young sisters do. 

One day my mom brought me over to a horse. I do not remember where. Could have been one of those “rides” that came around or at a street bazar. We’d call them Feasts back in the day.

She asked me to take a good long look at this horse. “Doesn’t he have beautiful eyes?” to which I had to reply with an honest “yes”.

That helped. As did the following little ditty that she shared with me many, many times as I was growing up.

“There’s a guy on the avenue. Every time he sees me he says ‘Look away….I cannot bear to look in those beautiful brown eyes’…You see, Donna? Brown eyes are beautiful.”

And I believed her.

I’ve often retold these stories to myself. I had no photo of the horse and I had no idea who that man on the avenue was or if he even existed at all. Both are imprinted into my memory and both have truly helped to inform that little awkward young girl that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Thanks for the assist, mom.




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