The other night, after Violet had gone to sleep and the older children had completed their bathing/hygiene routines, they all congregated on our bed. When there are five of us hanging out in our room- a queen size bed feels pitifully inadequate. The Mr. was giving First Born Son a summary about computer science. H, always happy to absorb the warmth of our bodies, lay quietly in the middle listening to our exchanges. And, Princess Commando was wrapping up a pre-interview with me for her Biography project which had been assigned to her 3rd grade class to help the students better understand the genre. Princess Commando had chosen to interview me about my life. I should be flattered; but, I know the true motivation behind her choice- I am readily accessible; and, to her, my life is very simple and easy to read. But, she defended her choice by lavishing me with praise of how I am “the best artist she has ever known.”
At 8 years old, where the rest of her female school mates look like Amazon women, she is still a peanut, able to curl up like a little puzzle piece into my curves. I stroked her long hair which smelled of fresh mint and rosemary and I turned the tables and asked her if I could “write” her biography. She bounced up and down enthusiastically, “Yes, yes!!”
Me: What is it like to be a little sister and a big sister?
PC: Huh? ( looking thoroughly confused) I’m not a little sister.
Me: Yes you are. You are still the little sister to your older brothers. And, you are also a big sister to Violet.
PC: Oh, yeah right. Um, well, it is hard to be a little sister because the brothers ( She always emphasizes the words with a tone of irritation and a roll of the eyes)are annoying and they tease me. I’m so puny; so, when they come after me, I feel so weak and small. (She pauses introspectively) But, I could take Henry, I think.
Me: So what does it feel like to be a big sister after being the little sister for 8 years?
PC: It feels good because I can treat Violet the way I want to be treated. I won’t tease her or attack her or be mean to her. I can teach her all sorts of things- like how to be a good person. And, I don’t feel like I am just in my big brothers’ shadows (where did she come up with that?). Oh, I know a question that you should ask. (Playing with the rings on my fingers) This is me pretending to be you asking me “So, tell me what it felt like to learn that your mother was going to have a baby.” Now you say it.
Me: Watch it, sister. I’m running this interview. (Clearing my throat) So, tell me what it felt like to learn that your mother was going to have a baby.
PC: When I found out, I was really sad because it meant that I wasn’t going to be your baby anymore. But, then, I thought about it and realized it was a good thing because I wasn’t going to be the littlest in the house anymore. And, I could have someone to take care of and look out for.
(When I broke the news to her, it was like telling her that our cat died or that Pokemon were not real. The hysterics that ensued were the complete antithesis of the celebratory cheers I was hoping for).
Me: You didn’t know for a while that you were going to have a baby sister. How did you feel when we came home from the ultrasound and we told you the baby was going to be a girl? Do you remember how I told you?
PC: I was so happy that I was going to have a sister. You told me by bringing home two pink outfits. I remember one had bunnies on it with bunny faces on the feet. That was cute. I was also a little bit sad because I wanted to buy a little blue blanket for the baby if it was a boy because you were going to name the baby Linus if it was a boy; and I like that name.
Me: How did you feel when you woke up on the morning that Violet was born?
PC: Well, I woke up and I realized you guys weren’t here. I came downstairs, and Nana was there and I said, “ Hey, what are you doing here?” And she told me that you were having the baby. I was really excited.
Me: Did you miss me?
PC: Yes! I missed you so much and I just wanted you to come home. (Due to that year’s H1N1 strain, hospital policy forbade anyone under the age of 15 from visiting the hospital).
Me: Were you sad when you found out that Violet had red hair?
PC: Yes because I wanted her to look like me.
Me: I understand. But it is really cool that you are the only one of the kids that has brown hair and your hair has the best highlights.
PC: Yeah, I know.
Me: When we brought Violet home, what was that like for you?
PC: I was so happy to see you and I was so excited to meet her. She was so cute and I couldn’t help myself, I just wanted to squeeze her so bad. But, I knew that I couldn’t. I just loved her so much. (Tears are welling in her eyes).
Me: Shoot, you’re going to make me cry!
PC: I’m kind of making myself cry (starts to giggle).
Me: Do you think you will have kids someday?
PC: Well, I want to adopt some kids because, well… (pauses and looks over at her brother)… Henry close your ears! (Lowers her voice to a whisper) I don’t want to have babies come out of me. You know, the pain and all. (Stops, again, thoughtfully). But, hey, I’m young, I might change my mind.
Henry’s interest is now piqued.
Henry: I want to adopt three kids but I don’t want a wife.
Me: Oh? Why is that?
Henry: Because girls are…weird.
Me: True that. But, don’t write them all off yet. You have two good friends who are girls. You are at an advantage. You know how to have friendships with the opposite sex. The other boys in your class don’t have that. And that is one of the most important parts of a relationship- friendship.
Henry: Yeah, I guess it’s true I’m ahead of the other boys in my class in that department. But, God, I would never marry either one of those girls. They are both crazy.
First Born Son has since left the room to download music and The Mr. is preparing his work clothes for the next morning. Picking up on the tail end of our conversation,
The Mr.: Who’s getting married?
Me: No one! And no one needs to be having babies or marrying anyone for a loooong time. Not until you are finished with college and you have a career that will support you and a family and all that comes with that. School first. And, be a good person- always.
Princess Commando and H answer patronizingly in unison, “Yes, Mom!” And The Mr. flashes me a knowing look. We are not often on the same page of the book. I am faster reader- he gets there eventually. We have not always practiced what we have preached. We have done things ass backwards. It is not for the faint of heart. It has been overwhelming, dizzying; and, at times, it has pulled us in different directions. But, if we erase even one line of the story, it is no longer ours to tell. So, while I wouldn’t recommend our methods (or lack there of) of building a family, I also, would not have done it any other way.