Friday, April 04, 2008

Our Inheritance

“You inherited the Preimsberger butt,” my mother said to my sister and me, two girls thin as two-by-fours, flat from head to foot, except for the butt, protruding from our backsides like cantaloupe halves. She was not a Preimsberger and therefore not a contributor to our malady. The butt came from our father, and to him and his three thin sisters from his mother, who by the time she was our grandma, had enough padding to camouflage the butt. Technically she was a Tholen; a Preimsberger only by marriage, but we were never a technical family.

When I was born my father nicknamed me P.B. It was supposed to stand for Preimsberger’s Baby, but my friends determined it meant Preimsberger Butt, loudly reminding me of my ancestry every time I walked away. My sister was spared such a nickname.

Then there was the nose. The butt was nothing compared to the cursed nose, a huge eagle-y beak long as a ski slope, that made many a Preimsberger look mean: Grandpa Dick, Uncle Reiny, our father, and even Aunt Jayne who made up bedtime stories just for me about kids who could dispense buttermilk from their noses via straws. Thinking back, Aunt Jayne's stories were most likely a product of hours spent in front of the mirror theorizing that a facial feature that large should have a spectacular function.

Our father’s Preimsberger proboscis had also been broken, twice, as a teenager and reset itself with an extra lump on the ridge. For a long time I worried that I had the nose since mine was always a bit too big for my face, and because people seemed to be able to recognize from great distances that I was my father’s daughter. Somewhere during high school though, I began to worry about my oversized butt and undersized breasts more frequently than my nose, which seemed to have mutated just a bit.

The full brunt of the beak fell to my little sister, who on her thirteenth birthday set aside the ten-dollar bills in the cards from both sets of grandparents for a nose job.

Our father is six foot two inches tall; his sisters hover near five feet ten. These great heights weren’t shared with us. Instead, our mother, five foot two, and her mother, five foot three, set the tone for my sister’s and my height. A few weeks after her thirteenth birthday, my sister, determined to break five foot four used her nose job fund to buy a pair of four-inch platform sandals with cork soles.

Interestingly, she said her nose felt smaller, almost invisible when she could look down at her friends from her new height, rather than up at them across the long slope of her schnozz.


Kristin said...

I love this essay - gets right at the heart of the things we REALLY think about ourselves! :)


Rev. Judith's Journal said...

Oh how I miss hearing you read your essays out loud around our Academy circle! As I read this one, though, I could hear it in your voice and I laughed until I cried. Thank you!