I was three. She was new and seemed really small. In the early years we shared a room. For a while, she had a tent over her crib with cold, wet fog blowing into it. It hummed all night. I wasn’t supposed to touch her because it could make her sick, but sometimes mom let me go inside the tent anyway. I don’t know if that tent was there for days, weeks or even months, but I remember the tent.
As I got bigger and ran faster, she didn’t. She also didn’t really want to play with me. Mom used to stretch her on the floor like I stretched my green Gumby doll. She would play bicycle with her legs and make snow angels on the hardwood. Mom also used to put a big popsicle stick in her mouth and move her tongue all around while she made weird noises. Mom used to let me play along sometimes, too, but I never wanted to do that gross popsicle stick game.
One winter it snowed so much it was over my head. My dad built underground snow tunnels that connected to the igloo my two older brother’s built. They let me go inside and we had hot chocolate and peanut butter & bacon sandwiches. It was the best day ever.
Kerry Boggis and her mom, Leslie Boggis.
I went to school. My sister stayed home with mom and got better at walking and talking. My dad sold TVs and traveled a lot. He always came home with little gifts for us. One year, I got a Swatch Watch with the rubber face protector. It was SO cool. After a few years, Mom went back to work and we went to daycare, but my brothers didn’t go. I hated that place. No one ever wanted to play with me. I spent a lot of time and anger trying to figure out why my sister was a “retard” and why the short bus was so funny. We both cried a lot there. I don’t know if it was weeks or months, but thankfully, my mom took us out of that place.
Soon, my sister and I started to fight. She drove me crazy. She never wanted to do what I wanted and her cries sent everyone running. She had a huge stupid back brace and I got so mad at her once, I pushed her off a chair. She dislocated her knee. I ran to the top of the stairs and sat there crying. I listened to everyone run around, call the ambulance, get her ice … and figure out what to do with me. I felt horrible. She had enough problems and I just had to go and add to them. I knew that’s what everyone was thinking. I don’t remember if I even got in trouble.
I really liked school. I liked the feeling of getting an “A”. I liked playing basketball and softball and working part time and babysitting and doing every theater production and just being really, really busy. I liked being good at stuff. Maybe I was escaping something? Maybe I just liked finding out who I was outside of being Kerry’s sister? Maybe I was just following my mom’s directions that I heard repeated in our house over and over again throughout the years, “You can do it. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you differently. You can do anything.”
The Boggis siblings
My mom never listened to what the doctors told her. If she did, Kerry would never have grown up in our house or learned to walk and talk. She most certainly would not have become an independent working woman with two jobs and hold a Board of Director’s seat. She would not have lived in her own apartment, fallen in love and then lost that love, become a budding horseback rider or make the best fresh rolls from scratch you’ve ever tasted. My mom would not have gone on to serve and inspire hundreds of NH families within the disabled community for years as the Manager of Consumer Directed Services at Gateways Community Services or worked to effect policy change for individuals and families at the NH State House.
The childhood memories I share here are pieced together, mere slices of time and perhaps not even in chronological order, but as any good self-psychoanalyst would say, they have made me who I am today. It’s why I value difference and inclusion … and fight for it. Having witnessed my mom and sister’s hard work pay off, I know first-hand that anything is possible.
Aunty Kerry with 3 of her 4 nieces and her nephew.
I now have three daughters of my own. Best friends one minute-worst enemies the next. Like I did growing up, I know they are listening to every word I say, watching every move my husband and I make and are teaching each other exponentially through every good and bad interaction. Being Kerry’s sister isn’t always easy, but it’s pretty darn cool too. I don’t think I tell her that enough, so Kerry, I love you. Thank you for teaching me and making me be better… and please bring your rolls to Easter!
The Boggis family
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