Thursday, February 07, 2008

Life as the baby of the family

I am the youngest of three, and regardless of the spoiled “baby” stereotype, I was abused, dressed up, stripped down, used as a guinea pig, and always took the blame. Other “babies” will understand what I am talking about. The rest of you, especially the oldests, need a lesson in life as the “baby.”

My oldest sister, Deana, was a mean child. Even my grandmother, who was supposed to be so biased about her grandbabies, figured that out when Deana took a bite out of a strange little girl in the grocery store.

Deana just liked to be mean. Once, she and Cousin Dennis poured an entire can of gasoline over my sister Stephanie’s head. Momma caught them just as they were looking for the matches.
At one point, she had convinced me that I was left on the doorstep by circus people. I am petrified of heights, so I had a serious identify crisis until my teens.

Deana could talk at nine months old, and is still just a talking. It was so bad, that Stephanie didn’t say a word until kindergarten because Deana wouldn’t let her. Someone would ask Stephanie a question, and Deana would answer.

Most of the time, she would beat us to a pulp if we did not do what she wanted. In the car, Stephanie and I would curl up on about a foot of seat while Deana stretched out. We were instructed not to cross a certain line or we’d pay.

Oh, were we abused! I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bruise from a stolen pinch or a red mark from her chubby hand has she smacked us, and we were scared to tell on her. She could convince our parents that Stephanie and I ganged up on her and she was just defending herself.

I can still see her with her Dorothy Hamil haircut, hands on her hips and lips pursed into a pout, “I’m telling Daddy on you.”

You see, Daddy made Deana mean – just as if you would grab a dog by the nose and shake it. She would do something bad, and Momma would spank her. Deana would end up waiting at the backdoor for Daddy to come home from work to tattle on her. Then Momma would beat her again.

Stephanie, on the other hand, was the quiet one, and you always have to watch the quiet ones. She was the prankster, and got so tickled when she scared me or convinced me to do something utterly stupid.

Once, Stephanie told me (I was only around six) Cousin Candice could stick her finger up her nose and touch her brain. I, of course, try it, pop a blood vessel and almost bleed to death.
Another time, I was shampooing my hair with my head under the faucet of the tub when Stephanie ran in and screamed, “Boo.” Alarmed I shot up, catching the faucet with my forehead and cutting a clean gash. Again, I almost bled to death (scalp wounds take forever to stop bleeding).

Stephanie was seriously manipulative, too. (The quiet ones always are!) Once Momma called us for dinner, and I came running to the backdoor. Stephanie was holding the iron door shut.

“What are the magic words?” she said. Instead of just saying, “Stephanie is wonderful. She can ride horses better than me. She can swim faster than me. Momma and Daddy like her best,” I pulled on the door knob. Just as I had all my weight against the door, she let go, and I slid across the carport floor and smashed my head into a brick wall.

Because I was the “baby,” Momma and Daddy would have let me juggle knives and not have broken a sweat. So, some extra bruises or a scratch or gash here or there did not call for alarm.
“Babies” had to make their own justice, be smart and quick witted. They also have to know what assets they have to bargain with. I became a master of diverting attention to something else, and I am quite the diplomat. Trust me -- growing up with sisters, I could talk myself away from a terrorist.

I am surprised I made it to adulthood.

I think about someday having a family of my own, but I have decided I want more than one child if I am lucky enough to have them. I want my own children to learn to live with siblings. If they learn that, then even an occupying foreign army couldn’t frazzle them.

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