Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ET[A] Phone Home

I was two and a half feet tall the day that my little sister was born. I know that because I remember how tall I felt when my head came just underneath our new counter-tops.

Earlier that morning I found my mom in the kitchen stuffing random things in her purse. This meant only one thing. That she was about to go somewhere and by the looks of what she was putting in there it appeared as though it was going to be crazy fun.

“Where are you going?” I asked, trailing her to the garage, where she took out a plastic bag and began filling it with more stuff.

“To the doctor,” she said.

It wasn’t what she said that was deceiving, or even the words she had selected to say it. It was her tone. Calm. Casual. Collected. The same tone one might use to talk about going to the dentist to have their teeth cleaned. This is not the tone one typically uses when they have just gone into labor and their husbands are waiting in the car, beeping on thirty second intervals.

But my mother never was typical. Later she would not elect to have an epidural, as she hadn’t in her previous ten births and afterward she would say it was virtually painless. Mom maintained that if she could have her tonsils taken out with a pair of scissors and no anesthesia, a little childbirth was nothing she couldn’t handle.

The Phone Call came later that day. It called to tell us something exciting had just happened and its name was Ita. At once, I climbed up on our brand new leather sofa and began jumping and whooping. I had no idea why I was so excited or who this Ita might be, but the general lack of parental supervision combined with the eccentricity and hoopla coming from my brothers and sisters had thrust me into a state of irrational, drunken bliss.

My mother was cradling her in a big white blanket when we arrived. She was a dainty little thing with gigantic baby blue eyes. Also, she was bald and she had an alien shaped head. But her head wasn’t what bothered me. Frankly, what was particularly bothersome was how she had just shown up out of nowhere without so much as a warning. Where did she even come from!?

As my brothers and sisters fussed and cooed at the new baby, a terrible thought occurred to me: I was getting replaced by a newer model and there was nothing I could do but watch.

Worse yet, I realized- as the goo-goo ga-ga’s yielded way for weird cartoonish faces and strange clucking noises- she had only been around for a couple days but already she was hogging over two thirds of my designated attention. Or maybe all of it.

And just when I thought we might leave, so I could go to my room and play house, they told me to sit in the chair so I could hold the new kid. They said it real slow, in drawn out syllables and big animated smiles, like I had just won a million dollars.


She was very flimsy and awkward in my arms but I tried to cradle her like I saw the others, so I might steer attention away from her and showcase my sudden spurt of maturity and quick maternal instincts. Only too bad for me, because as I was rocking that baby I accidentally bumped her head on the arm of the wooden chair, which stirred chaos and panic among my family. I guess subconsciously I was trying to say, “Go home. You stupid baby.”

She did. But her home happened to be the same as my home. She was everywhere I didn’t want her to be and no where I wanted her to be (gone). And to make matters worse, she was cute. Real cute. When she cried, people came running, like she was performing Les Misérables on Broadway. But when I tried imitating her ET-ish noises I was told to be quiet because I was giving everyone a headache.

I wasn’t accustomed to this. I was not used to this at all. Before she came around, I could run around in concentric circles chanting “yagul, yagul, yagul” and everyone would think it was drop dead adorable. I said things like “I don’t drink coffee; only peoples do” and got rounds of applause. Now, thanks to a bald-headed yet still mysteriously attractive baby, I had to work for my attention.

I’d heard about kids who sold their baby siblings for money on the playground when their parents weren’t looking. But it was hard to even imagine doing that considering she had nine adults guarding her at all times.

What it was that was so special about her was confounding to me. I doubted she could count to twenty like I could or do consecutive somersaults or even pick up her alien head. In fact, it was funny to entertain the thought of her even attempting to do any of the grown-up things I was able to do. She was the size of a ruler for gods-sake.
But none of my plans to rid her proved effective. Not listing the things she couldn't do that I could do flawlessly, neither did dressing her up in stupid clothes or even pointing at her and laughing.

After a while I could only hope that the spacecraft that had brought her here might take her back. But sadly, even as time progressed she showed few motor skills and it began to seem doubtful that she would ever pick up a phone let alone, dial it.

For Ita. My favorite little sister. I'm glad you never phoned home :)