Original Or Copycat

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

One of life's biggest lessons.

I was surprised one day when a little girl was returned to the orphanage.  The adopters had changed their minds.  The fact that it happened haunted me for many years.  When you are waiting to be adopted your emotions go from "please pick me" to "what is wrong with me?".  When one is older it seems to be more deeply felt because you are more aware of what is happening.  I was almost five and my sister was three.  She was cute and shy with blond hair and green eyes that could melt any heart.  I still had battle scares from the abuse that led to the state taking us away from our parents.  If we did get adopted, would they send me back and keep my sister?
Several times my sister was picked but got left behind because (supposedly) they only wanted one.  The authorities had decided that she and I must be adopted together.
In my mind had I decided it was because there was something wrong with me.  I tried to copy the look and action of some other kids, but it did not work.  I was always curious and constantly asked dumb questions or so I thought.  I could not make myself shut up.  I was cautious of how each potential adopters treated my "baby" sister.  I had assigned myself as her protector. The day finally came.  We had been adopted.  I was thrilled but in the back of my mind I knew it could all be short-lived.  I was not worried so much about me but without me who would protect my sister?  This weighed heavily on my mind.  At the age of five, I felt like I was a jinx.
The first year after my sister and I were adopted was full of things that frightened me and things that made me more curious.  I truly believed at the time that my parents would send me back and keep my sister.  I knew they adopted me was because the authorities did not want to separate my sister and I.  I did not believe I was really wanted.  I wanted to be like one of the kids everyone wanted.
My sister was adorable and pretty.  She was shy and absolutely adored our foster father called her his little princess.  The few times they had picked us up before the adoption we would go on outings that were fun, but I found myself being closer to the woman (my mom) rather than the man (Daddy).  He and Tricia were best friends.  I watched him and was nice to him but never let my guard down.  The adoption went through, and we moved to Dallas to be close to Grandmother.
I was so worried that she too would want to send me back.  There were some other kids on our street.  They would come and play.  One was a very pretty little girl with dark red hair.  My grandmother had red hair.  I really loved my grandmother and wanted her to love me.  I wanted to be wanted so badly.
Grandmother was preparing for the upcoming Christmas by making decorations.  She had made a table cloth that was to go on the dinning table.  It would have different embroidery around the edges and in the center.  She had gotten ready to die the fabric a bright red.  She had her big pot and the "red dye" needed to get the job done.  I spotted a box of red die and got excited.  I could become a red head, just like Grandmother and the little girl she liked so much.  I stole the box of red dye.  Grandmother looked everywhere and finally decided to buy more.  A trip to Tithe grocery store later she was still asking herself where she could have put the original box of dye.  I was silent.  This was unusual for me.  Grandmother kept asking me if I was okay.  I tried to sound chipper and said yes, but I was a little tired.
Time passed.  I had put the box of red dye into a shoebox where I kept my secret things.  I had my special jacks in there that Grandmother had given me.  As years passed my diary was also kept there.  I had gotten through our first Christmas and became totally convinced my parents loved me when my mother gave me her name.  That was special to me.
I had gone through the grade school years being made fun of because I had a long ponytail and Tarzan was very popular.  I had been tagged Cheetah.  I had gotten so used to being the new kid in school and the one everyone picked on that I really did not react too much of it.  The only time I did was when they made fun of my sister by calling her Cheetah's sister.  Tricia was still very shy and would go home in tears.  I became very good at getting the bullies to back off. Then something happened between the sixth grade and the seventh grade.
During that summer I grew.  Not just taller.  After months of looking at my flat chest... it was not flat anymore.  We had to buy a training bra.  I still was not sure what we were training my mosquito bits to do.  That is what Grandmother called them.  She should not have done that.  I scratched them a little every day, hoping they would grow.  I really did not need to do that.  By September, school was to start, and I would be going to Junior High.  How exciting.
The day we went into to register I spotted some of the worst bullies from the grade school who had also graduated with me.  I overheard one little boy say, "That is Cheetah?  Wow, she is a girl."  I was thrilled.  I did not like the little boy, but I was glad someone besides my family knew I was a girl and not a monkey.
The first month of school went without a hitch.  I started gymnastics and seemed to fit in with most of the kids.  Then a new girl enrolled.  She had the most beautiful red hair I had ever seen.  She was a real beauty.  We became fast friends and played together a lot since we discovered she lived just a block away from us.  We were in Midland, Texas at the time.  Her father was a big wig with an oil drilling company.  He collected turtles.  He had turtles from all over the world in his backyard.  We sometimes caught them and painted stuff on their backs, so we could tell them apart.  I dearly loved Paula.  She was my best friend.  I had never had one before.
I say this with an apology to anyone I might offend.  You cannot trust 'girls' even best friends.  There was a boy at school that Paula liked.  She never told anyone but me.  She told me because this little boy seemed to like me.  He followed me around and even gave me a flower once.  Paula did not say a word.  She gave me no indication she was jealous.  However, when we were playing one day I brought out the shoebox with all the treasures I had kept over the years.  The box of red dye caught Paula's eye.  She got so excited.
"Jane, we could be sisters.  Let's dye your hair red like mine.  You would look great as a redhead."  Silly me I went for it.  It took us all afternoon to ruin my hair.  We did a very good job.  "Sorry, Jane.  I bet you won't be so irresistible to Billy now."  Paula, left that day vowing to never return to a backstabber.  I racked my mind.  How was I a backstabber.  I did not even like Billy.
When my mom got home from work, she called from the front door. " I have a surprise.  Come out, come out, where ever you are."
"Where are my babies?"  Grandmother shouted as she shuffled through the door.
"I raced to put my arms around her.  I could not stop the tears."  Please help me.  I have missed you so much.  How long do you stay.  Please stay for keeps.
Grandmother and mother looked at me.  My hair was the brightest neon pink anyone had ever seen.  It was still wet.  I tried to explain but when I mentioned the red dye I had in the shoebox Grandmother gave me her, I should paddle you, but I won't look.  Please don't make me pick out a switch I can't ever go anywhere.  Grandmother gave me a big hug and said for me to meet her in the bathroom.
I grinned from ear to ear.  Grandmother would make it right.  She sent mother to the store to pick up some things and then had her stop at a beauty shop and pick up some bottles of special stuff.
Grandmother said.  "We are going to do the best we can to fix this, but I want you to be quiet and listen while I work."
"Yes. Mam."  I was on a stool up to the kitchen sink.  Grandmother started to work.  Some stuff really smelled awful, but I kept my promise and did not say a word.
"Jane you do not ever want to make yourself a copy of anyone else.  You are an original.  As you get older you will find others trying to copy you.  You are the only one of you in the whole world.  It is okay to make mistakes, but do not make it trying to be someone else."
When it was all over I had a slight pinkish tint to my hair.  Grandmother put me in rollers and let it dry on them.  When she brushed it out I had big bouncy curls.  "You hold your head up high and act as if you did it for fun.  Nod to Paula and thank her for the idea."
I got stares all right but the next week I was so surprised.  Several of the other girls showed up with "pink" hair.  Grandmother had to laugh and say, "See, I told you.  You be always the original. Let everyone else be the copycat."
In my heart my grandmother was the smartest woman in the world.  I still think so.  She, too, was an original.  We picked each other every time no matter what.

Submitted: June 06, 2021

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