Coming to Grips with Ben

Coming to Grips with Not Being Polly
by Ben Oveson

As Polly's younger brother, I was charged with the task that so many of us younger siblings are coerced from the womb to compete, following our older bother's and sister's footsteps. I had the unfortunate fate of having to follow Polly.

Polly, my bigliest sister, has always been ruthlessly tenacious in achieving her goals. Her raw ambition started in a classic story of wannabe kindergarten grade skipper against the gatekeeper of the first grade. Polly, because it is in her nature to take the quickest and easiest way, wanted to skip kindergarten and needed to pass a battle of wits against the school psychologist to get the OK. Her uncontrollable DNA took over and she bested the psychologist on the first question satisfying her need to save time and effort.

The psychologist, thinking he was up against a normal five year old, made the grave mistake of asking, “What is your name?”

Polly immediately answered correctly. “Polly," as firmly and condescendingly as a round-faced bottle glasses wearing soon to be first grader can sound.

“And middle name?” the inquisitor barked back trying to regain his confidence.

“Esther,” Polly instantly volleyed back tilting her head and cracking a smile just wide enough to expose her most persuasive weapon, a dimple.

The psychologist calmly started to write Ester in the space of the form wondering, “is it spelled with an –er or –or”, but before he could put his pen to the paper he was interrupted by Polly’s Mom.

"That's not her middle name," she said spoiling Polly's fun as she so often did.

"Not her name? What do you mean? How am I going let her skip kindergarten if she doesn't know her middle name?" the psychologist asked with a hint of frustration.

"Well . . . Uh." Her mom hesitated to tactfully answer the question. "It was a joke . . . you know polyester . . . the fabric."

"Oh," the psychologist muttered as all the dreams of winning the confrontation drained out of his cheeks relaxing them into utter disbelief.

He could have just stopped the interview right there and let her move on to her next more worthy appointment, but he knew the paper work had to be submitted.

And so by the first grade Polly had set the bar impossibly high for the rest of the Ovesons by outwitting the school psychologist with the strongest evidence of maturity he could have asked for . . . a joke that he did not get. Unfortunately for the three siblings to come, it wouldn't be the last time she made the rest of us feel like all we got from our parents was good looks.

Ben lives and works in Austin, Texas.