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Someone Belonging To Me Forever
My sister is the child unleashing all hell in the supermarket while parents of firmer discipline gawk in horror. My mother is the woman rationalizing with those around her, “She’s had a rough day,” as she stocks up the cart with the Lucky Charms cereal my sister was fussing about. I wish I had saved up my lucky charms for the genetic coin toss that determined Hannah’s persona. On the brighter side, I secretly rejoice in Father Time because just when she becomes pubescent, I’ll be off to college singing my sweet good riddance. So long to the brat I’ve been tolerating for 100 light-years…or nightmares, rather. Sometimes I want to hang her up on a close line by her ears or freeze her in an ice cube to put in an enemy’s lemonade, because even an enemy would notice that the beverage was too sour. But she’s my sister with a unique charm of her own and even though nature made me her keeper, I couldn’t abandon her if I tried.
I remember getting down on my seven-year-old knees, telling my parents all I wanted that Christmas was an older sister. How sweet my life would be if I could brag about a sister with a real-life driver’s license, one whose hair would grow back when I cut it, someone mature and ladylike to teach me about boys, makeup, and where babies came from. Someone belonging to me forever. So I happily turned in my “I’m an only child” badge, naïve and unaware I had just sentenced myself to a lifetime of banging my head against a wall.
NOTE: Be careful what you wish for.
Well, forever was more than I bargained for and needless to say, I got my gift. Harsh as it may sound, the elves must have misread my Christmas list, because the sister they gave me was a baby, and as far as I knew, that small bundle of joy couldn’t drive me anywhere. What was Santa thinking? After all, if this was my holly jolly heart’s desire, the least he could do was get details right.
Most babies are like broken record players: eat-sleep-poop-cry, eat-sleep-poop-cry. But Hannah, although far from a human vegetable, was like a Mr. Potato Head among Cabbage Patch Kids—something was always disabled, always needing to be repaired. Mr. Potato Head came with assorted eyes, shoes, and mustaches which could all be misassembled. Similarly, my sister needed several surgeries and therapies; doctors said her chances of thriving were thinner than a coin—and if God was in a good mood, she might get by with mental retardation. The distinction between Spuddy and Hannah was this: My sister was left on our doorstep, burritoed in a diaper with no receipt. The icing on the cake? She was a dreadfully colicky baby. Hannah practiced her scream with the dedication of an Olympic athlete. Like the Energizer Bunny, she kept on going and going and going and going. Except her batteries never died. My mom always said Hannah’s tantrums displayed her entrapment in her body. Yet, this soul snare didn’t touch the misfortune in the doc’s false prophesies. And so, the “Miracle Baby” was born.
I first noticed Hannah’s special treatment when my mom spent weeks at a time on bed rest, sending me off with relatives and family friends. I was dumped into a universe of confusion, anxiety, fear, and neglect in unpredictable atmospheres. Just when I was used to breathing oxygen, the air would change. I was “E.T. phone home” craving the familiarity of life before the bump that became Hannah. I got clingy with my mother and ill feelings prickled beneath my skin, all angry cannons aimed toward this little girl who took my mommy away from me. But the resentment didn’t stop there.
Like any typical youngest child, Hannah was a finger-pointer. I have good reason to believe some jerk started a convention for lastborns where they give out blame bibles containing the verses “She did it!”, “It wasn’t me!”, and “Thou shall blame others.” These demon children disguised as “the baby of the family” instinctively sign their names with condemnation, stinging anyone around them; Hannah could have easily been their Queen Bee.
One of her best performances occurred last winter when our hefty evergreen tree made a sudden dive, knocking over the precious nativity, amputating several figurines and generously splashing the three kings with its life support water. “Jesus Mary Joseph,” would have been a quite appropriate phrase. Pine needles sprinkled the carpet like the Pillsbury Dough Boy would decorate a cake, a mess I would have to clean up. The next morning, an early Christmas present waited beneath the tree. Lo and behold, centered in the modest stable where our Savior was born, a Superman action figure stood proud with his hands on hips in those too-tight pantyhose. Spiderman, Catwoman, the Hulk, and the gang crept along the roof of the manger, probably on a mission to put back baby Jesus. After all, Clark Kent was getting a bit cocky in the spotlight.
Hannah was a bizarre specimen and the only likely explanation for the latest account of the Christmas story. Kindergartners everywhere would wage war over who got to play Wonder Woman and who won the part of the Green Goblin in next year’s Christmas pageant. And little miss playwright would sit back and brush her hands off at the silliness of the “gentle shepherds” yelling “POW!” and whacking each other with their staffs.
When my aunt stopped by later, she took one look at the set stage and asked my sister, “Did you do this?” I froze because in a salty sea of victims, I typically was chosen to walk the plank of Hannah’s pirate ship. In a “why would you ever think I did this?!” tone, Captain Hannah replied (drum roll please), “My DAD did it. Pretty inappropriate, huh?” What a pistol she could be…a pistol just waiting to go off.
Hannah scrambles up words like eggs, calling PSR (her parish school religion class) “CPR” and even forgetting that our cat, Root beer, is actually named Shakespeare. But she really goofed up when training her stuffed dog to, “Sh*t Max, sh*t!” instead of “Sit Max, sit!” waving her pudgy finger at the poor pup, whose food had digested long ago. These word jumbles never really came to a caboose, trailing on into blunt questions and awkward statements. One Sunday morning at church, she inquired, “Muvver (mother), why is Jesus acting like Peter Pan up there?” referring to the suspended crucifix.
Also, Hannah is fascinated by science. A Planet Earth devotee, she repeats the most random facts, leaving Miss Frizzle and her magic school bus in her dust. She challenges people with “Did you know…”s concerning the length of Octopus tentacles, the speed of a cheetah, the history of a fossil, or her latest obsession, the carnivorous Venus Flytrap. She conducts experiments and explains solids, liquids, and gasses, using examples from her successful visits to the restroom. She talks about the weather and not just to kick off conversations. She can describe in detail the anatomy of a bug and even play my own personal mosquito, leaving irksome itchy swells on the foreskin of my patience.
Hannah is a one-of-a-kind, three-ring circus: sometimes she provides knee-slapping entertainment...more frequently though, I want to throw tomatoes at her. And of course, she performs magic tricks I just can’t figure out, always bringing me back hungry for more. She is the clown pulling psychedelic scarves from somewhere inside her. Shades of dreamy blue, dramatic purple, and fiery red cover Hannah’s personalities like a coat of many colors coiled around her psyche. With the spunk of Junie B. Jones, my showman of a little sister can be a fun playmate...or just a headache packaged as a human yo-yo, zinging in all directions. But, she is someone belonging to me forever. And I love her that way.