Saturday, December 31, 2011

I See... Being Number Four

I am Number Four. Really! I am! If you had the chance to see last year's sci-fi blockbuster megahit “I am Number Four,” you'll understand the boldness of this declaration. I was not the fourth genetically-engineered embryo designed in a spooky DNA lab, nor the fourth alien guardian sent to earth to protect it against evil, and I am not blessed with any degree of superhuman strength that I know of. However, I am still Number Four, and I have the sappy happy family memory to prove it.

The Sappy Happy Family Memory

When Elvis was king and we were fighting the Communist Red Hordes in Vietnam, I was spending many of my young summers with six other brothers and sisters and two parental units crammed into a dusty hot metal-encased family station wagon roaming the roads of Southern California and Utah visiting masses of cousins on both sides of the family tree. On our travels we were constantly stopping. Stopping for gas, food, a break, cheap trinkets at a tourist trap, a funny sound or mysterious fluid emanating from the engine, and every once in a while our final destination for that day.

At every stop us kids would tumble quickly out of every door of the car like a dropped open bag of your favorite chips. Released from our captured state, we would scatter everywhere except where we were supposed to be. This was a full 15 years before they invented kiddie leashes, and our parents loved all of us most of the time, so a foolproof plan to ensure that we left the gas station or the Dairy Queen with all seven children was imperative.

My father's fun answer to this serious dilemma was to require a military-style roll call in front of the car before we drove away. In the line up, however, we didn't have names; we had numbers. Our number was our position in birth order. We would stand at attention and bark out, probably too loudly, our number, starting with my oldest sister: ”One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven!” If there was a missing number, Dad knew he had to hunt one of us down.

I have warm fuzzy memories of the summer vacation roll call. The longer I live and love my own little family, the more I treasure the richness and significance of this exercise. Mom and Dad loved us all; they could not bear to miss even one of the seven, although I'm sure there were times they were overwhelmed with the seven.

And guess what? I am Number Four! I will always be Number Four. I am so glad to be Number Four.

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