Because I played with the boys all day, I wanted to look like they did, so I wore baggy T-shirts and grass-stained shorts and pedal pushers. When we went swimming in the pool that Mom and Dad had had built in our backyard, I often swam topless. Not that it mattered, not at that age. I was five or six at the time. If the boys could swim topless, I said to Mom and Dad, why couldn't I? They smiled and told me it was just fine. I was seven or eight when I switched to a girl's bathing suit. This required no family intervention; it just happened like most things do when parents don't push their children, by my mother buying me a girl's suit and my one day putting it on.
In those days, I was clamoring for as much from sports as I could get. I kept asking for more trips to the backyard to play catch with Dad, kept hoping for more visits to the University of Toledo for a basketball or football game, kept wanting more time in front of the television or beside the radio with my father to understand the games better. I desperately wanted to learn to keep score of baseball games, to understand the sport's strange numbering system -- the catcher was 2, the shortstop was 6, the center fielder, 8.
Dad wasn't pushing me to do this. I was asking, and Dad happily obliged. I wondered years later if Dad thought of me as his first son, and he laughed and shook his head. "No, you wanted to play sports and learn about sports, and you were a happy child, so your mother and I thought that was just fine. We wanted you to do what you wanted to do."
If Dad wasn't home, I turned to my best friend, David Hansen. David was my first running mate -- a triplet with a brother, Douglas, and a sister, Laurie. We became such good friends that they labeled me "the Fourth Triplet," a title I believe I hold for life. They all called me Christy back then. I would later become Chris or Christine to everyone else, but not to the Hansens, and especially not to David. Nearly forty years later, when I talk to David, I'm still Christy Brennan, which is fine with me. David and I spent our summer days trading baseball cards, fiddling with his transistor radio dial trying to tune in the Chicago Cubs from two hundred miles away, and racing around the block on our new bikes. One day we got the great idea to attach a rope to the collar of the Hansens' large boxer, McDuff, so he could drag us around the block on our skateboards as if we were waterskiing. There were more skinned knees in the neighborhood that summer than any year before or since.
David Hansen and I had just about everything in common. Our mothers always wondered if we would eventually get married. (We did not.) David was ten months older, but we were the same height as kids, perfectly compatible for playing sports all day long. My first sleepover, when I was seven, was not at a girl's house, but at David's. We slept in sleeping bags in the Hansens' basement. It didn't take me long to get there: we lived two doors apart on Barrington Drive in Old Orchard. David and his siblings and I and mine played in our neighborhood Monday through Friday, then went to art classes together at the museum Saturday mornings and to church Sunday mornings. I sometimes missed a Sunday, but the triplets never did. They couldn't. Their father was our minister at Christ Presbyterian Church.