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POLAR OPPOSITES Growing Up With a Hellraiser of a Sister
“Mom!” I said, tears gathering in the corner of my eyes. There wasn’t much time. I was in mortal danger. “Help me!” “Trey!” My sister Ashley turned the corner with a grotesque snarl on her face, a black magician’s wand in her right hand. “Get back here so I can turn you into a frog!” She brandished the wand and began to creep toward my mom and me. I’m sure now that my mom must have stopped her from harassing me, but at the time, I wasn’t about to wait around and see what happened. I shrieked and sprinted off, determined to remain a human, 4-year-old boy. This is how it was growing up. My sister, 21/2 years older than me, tormented me at every possible opportunity. For my part, I was either fleeing from her in terror or devotedly looking up to her throughout my entire childhood. “If Ashley told you the sky was purple,” my dad once told me, “then you’d check with us to see if it was true.” For me, if Ashley said something was cool, then those were just the facts. She held tremendous influence over me in our earlier years. She was always a touchstone for what was hip, even as she fell in with the wrong crowd and was sent away to Oldfields — an all-girls boarding school outside of Townsend, Maryland — when she was 14. After that, she never returned to Albany for any length of time. Halfway through prep school, she began to really dig into her classes, realizing a knack for the written word. Soon after, she went off to college in Paris and began living the quintessential cosmopolitan lifestyle, writing and studying comparative literature and living it up abroad. You might say she’s the polar opposite of me. After graduation, she wondered how she would make a living with her writing, and decided, of all things, to go to law school
- William F. “Trey” Underwood, III I give her flack these days for not getting back to Albany often enough. “Sure,” I say, “You can fly out to France for a three-day party, but you can’t come home for Thanksgiving?” But I love her anyway, and she makes it back more and more often as we get older. Having lived in the middle of the cutthroat, rapid-fire entertainment industry, there’s something about the slower pace and the presence of family that appeals to her now. When she visits, we just sit out on the patio and shoot the breeze, drink wine, and relax. I’m thankful to have a sibling relationship that’s outlasted thousands of miles and endless change. Oh, and that she never did get around to transforming me into a frog. and become a pharmaceutical rep in Los Angeles. It was decent work, she told me, but she never felt passionate about it. She knew she needed a change. She continued with her comedy writing, getting a few pieces published in the Huffington Post, and worked with a friend from Paris on a screenplay. She knew that writing was her dream, and began to pursue it furiously. There were moments that she doubted her art, struggling against the current in hypercompetitive LA. But I just told her, if there’s something you 100 percent have to do, you should do it. Heck, live out of a car if you have to and just write as much as possible. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. These days, she’s on the cusp of a big break after networking through a friend and getting connected with a massive TV project that just started shooting. When it’s done, she’ll be listed as an associate producer in the credits. I’ve been sworn to absolute secrecy about exactly who she’s working with, but needless to say, there are at least a couple of big names. I’m happy and proud that her years of hard work are paying off in such a big way.
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