Family love: Kelsey

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my (immediate) family. This is the fifth installment. You can read the other posts here. All wedding photographs courtesy of the wonderful Meredith Perdue.

Kels, Kelseyka

She was my first playmate, even though I did not welcome her to the world with kindness. Shortly after she was born, my mother would hear Kelsey crying and come in to find me standing on her little baby hands with an innocent face — or trying to ride on her back as if she were a rocking horse. I was not the best of big sisters, clearly. Yet Kelsey never showed me anything except abundant love.

It is common knowledge in our family that Kelsey is the sweetest among us four kids, followed closely by Sam. (I rank last on the sweetness totem pole, in case you are wondering.) She was born with a pure, golden heart. She loves everyone. Where I am quick to see the negative and the bad, Kelsey immediately finds the good and the positive. I think her only fault is that she wants everyone to be happy. If you could call that a fault.

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Kelsey answered my father’s lifelong prayer of an athletic child. After he had three girls, I think Dad had more or less given up on having a son, and so Kelsey was designated as his surrogate boy child. (It was determined early on that I would not be able to fulfill this role. I did not display any considerable athletic prowess; I wanted to stay inside and wear dresses and read books.) Kelsey was always climbing on things, throwing balls, twisting her body into bizarre shapes. I took ballet classes and loved the delicacy, the inherent femininity of it all; but Kelsey took gymnastics classes — the tough, intense side of little girl sports. She excelled at the gym and was a rising star until my mother pulled her out, concerned about what a gymnastics career would do to her body and self-esteem (and this was probably a good idea).

To my mother’s chagrin, however, Kelsey took up an even less feminine sport than gymnastics: She became a hockey star. What started as a nightly series of cul-de-sac games with the neighborhood kids became a prodigious career as one of the nation’s best women inline hockey players.

I have always been so proud of watching her on the rink. She plays with grace and strength. When she started out, there were no girls’ teams in our region, so she had to play with the boys. This was no problem for her, as she often outmaneuvered them all. I distinctly remember sitting on the bleachers during a game when a guy beside me said, “Whoa! Look at that dude! He’s awesome!” I followed his pointing finger and then politely informed him, “That’s not a dude. That’s my SISTER.” He didn’t believe me until the game was over and she took off her helmet. It was like a scene from one of those girl-power-kind-of-based-on-a-true-story-made-for-TV Disney movies.

Sister time

Kelsey is nicer than almost all humans. I have only rarely seen her angry (despite what the knife-wielding picture below may suggest). She always apologizes first, a quality that infuriated me when I was little because it meant that I couldn’t stay angry at her for very long.

So excited to be 21

She’d be the last person to tell you so, but Kelsey is also incredibly smart. With all due respect to Sam and Grace, Kelsey wins the title of Smartest Sibling in our family. She taught herself calculus when she was 14. She was the only one among us who displayed any talent for the more advanced topics of learning, such as statistics and science. Kelsey was accepted into numerous Ivy League universities, but she decided to come to UNC-Chapel Hill after being awarded the coveted and prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship (which is, essentially, a golden ticket to the most charmed life ever). She was the first homeschooled student to be given this award in the program’s history. This summer, she worked as a research intern for Madeleine Albright’s consulting firm in D.C. We all expect Kels to become the Secretary of State in a short matter of time.

In short, Kelsey is the consummate woman. She is beautiful, loving, and smarter than everyone else. She can do anything and that’s something I will always believe.

Family love: Dad

I am writing a series of short posts about why I love my family. This is the third installment. All quality (wedding-related) photographs are courtesy of the incomparably great Meredith Perdue; all other photographs are mine.

Dad, Juju, Jak

We like to say that my father never truly grew up. Throughout our childhoods, he was the most popular dad in the neighborhood. He was the Pied Piper. Flocks of children followed him everywhere: to the pool, to play dodgeball against the walls of houses, to set up a makeshift hockey rink in the cul-de-sac, to stage water wars against other bands of roving children. He did not act like everyone else’s serious, starchy fathers; he seemed like one of us. At family gatherings, he preferred to sit at the kids’ table; adult conversation made him uncomfortable. He never treated us like babies or talked down to us; he treated us like his equals and we worshiped him for it.

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He is one of the most hilarious and unusual people I know. Sarcasm is his mother tongue. I often regale people with stories of the bizarre and funny things he’s done, only to realize later that he may come across as totally insane.

All I ever wanted when I was a child was to make him laugh. To get Dad to laugh! That would be the highest honor. When he did laugh at something I said, I felt on top of the world.

Dad's true love

He is the most humble man I know. Dad is a quintessential renaissance man in many ways. He was a celebrated athlete in college, winning all sorts of titles (including the Big Ten Award) for Purdue’s track team. Today, he coaches hockey and plays any sport that he can. Our family gatherings are now famous for his organized “Family Olympics” events. He gathers all willing members into a gauntlet of games (including but not limited to: basketball, badminton, volleyball, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, hockey, Crate, and so on).

Along with still managing to fit the role of the consummate athlete, Dad is the smartest person I’ve ever met. He has three master’s degrees (in computer engineering, robotics, and something else equally nerdy). He worked on the team in Florida that invented the first personal printer. He did freelance engineering work for NASA. He spent a year creating an algorithm for auctions that no one had discovered before. But he’d never tell you any of these things, not in a million years. He’s accomplished things that we are still finding out about, even now.

In my teenage years, I was very easily frustrated with him. I had little patience in our relationship. I regret that a lot. Looking back, I think this is because how similar we are. I can’t completely express all of our small, shared characteristics, but I am convinced that they are many. We both have a tendency to default to sarcasm in tight situations. We are likely to become obsessed with something, to a degree more extreme than most people. We cultivate a fierce pride in our family. We like to exaggerate problems but then solve them quickly. Since I’ve gotten married, I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been before. I appreciate him to a deeper degree; I realize all that he has done for us and continues to do. He brings unlimited joy wherever he goes and I don’t think there’s anyone I’d rather spend a day with. As a father, he is peerless. He gave us the happiest childhood one could imagine. And I don’t tell him that enough.