She was larger than life. A goddess of courage and virtue, intellect and strength. In the eyes of my mother, her martyred baby sister could do no wrong.
I grew up living with her name, and failing in my attempts to live up to her legacy. My bedtime stories were tales of her adventures, my lullabies were audio recordings of her many interviews and radio serials. Images of her with various dignitaries and celebrities covered the walls of my childhood home, where there were none of me.
The expectations for me to follow in her hallowed footsteps were so great even Gandhi, Amelia Earhart and Einstein combined would struggle to meet the demands of my patron saint. There were the constant raised eyebrows, and shrugged shoulders, and the ubiquitous pursed lips of disappointment.
That’s why every university I applied to was as far away from home as possible. I took to using my middle name in class so teachers would hopefully overlook my familial obligations.
In my final year of college, a forced history project found me deep in the dusty stacks at the genealogy library, perusing brittle microfiche newspapers. Articles there were not included in the many scrapbooks I memorized in my early years. They told of an all too human woman. Flawed, but driven. A person I could have called friend.
I sat in disbelief, overcome by the reality behind the legend. I resented a folk hero, a mythological creature no one could emulate. Had I known the unvarnished truth, I could have embraced my role as namesake. Now, I’m left with the mystery of why my mother raised her sister to such a lofty, and exaggerated pedestal, and why she expected me to claw my way up to her feet.