One morning when I was 11, Mom turned off the Little River Band concert on the TV and said that we needed to talk. It was springtime outside and the sun was streaming through the living room windows. Against this backdrop, Mom poured forth a story about how she had fallen in love but that the man she loved was married. At that age all I could think was, What does this have to do with me? Then she said the words that changed my life. “I’m pregnant.” As with so many events in childhood I didn’t realise the full force of the ramifications until much later. That morning all I thought At least I’m not in trouble, and said, Oh, OK. Can I go outside and play now?
I don’t know what Mom was expecting but I was not ready to play Happy Families when she introduced me to her boyfriend. What was so wrong that Mom had to go off and drag some man into our lives? Who needs a man anyway? And for some strange reason Mom always seemed just a little nervous around him. She was showing off – getting up to make him a drink and being all nice to him. She’s not like that with me. He knows where the kitchen is. Get up and get it yourself!
Mom blossomed and bloomed and then became the size of the local bus station. Although I regret it now, my relationship with Frank did not easily improve. He ate too loudly. He smoked. He never stopped talking. He smelled funny – like a man! Yuk! And he liked to kiss Mom. Loudly. Double Yuk! Oh sure my dad smelled like a man, but he didn’t invade my space and then leave a lingering man smell. When Frank came to visit, Mom cooked and served at the kitchen table – which we never did when he wasn’t around. I was appalled at the hypocrisy – when Frank wasn’t around, the house was still church-quiet. I believed that Mom only wanted to spend time with Frank and their baby – but not me.
In some ways I was involved in many of the preparations for my sister’s arrival. Mom, being slightly older, was recommended to have an amniocentesis. As well as letting Mom know the baby was healthy, would also show the sex of the baby. Mom and Frank had only had girls, so they were hoping for a boy. However, I was an only child and the thought of having a brother wasn’t as appealing as having a sister! One evening Mom came home with a small plastic bag which I thought was from a bookstore. She said “What do you want more than anything else?” I was delighted! The next book in the series from Walter Farley?
Mom, grumpy with hormones and pregnancy and a clueless child, chucked the bag on my bed. Inside was a bumper sticker saying in big pink letters “It’s a girl!” I took the sticker and accepted it with the same numb unknowing I had accepted everything else in my life. However, maybe I was beginning to understand – I gave the bumper sticker pride of place on my dresser mirror – top left corner. Everything else fit around the sticker in much the same way that everything else in my life would have to fit around my sister.
When it came to naming my sister, Mom and Frank had narrowed the field to two: Lorraine or Louise. I preferred Louise. I should have been more honoured at the time to help to name my sister – but I’m particularly proud now.
I was born on 30th April and my baby sister was due towards the end of August so I was hoping that she would arrive on 30th. She had other plans. I was in school – Music class if I remember correctly – when I got the news that I would have to go home to Mom’s brother that night and that Mom had gone into the hospital to deliver my baby sister. I will say now that I must have misunderstood, or perhaps Mom realised that I might be frightened by the sight of Mom with labour pains. Either way, I was expecting to leave school and go straight to the hospital. But I was made to wait until the ordeal was over. I arrived at the hospital early in that evening. My sister was officially 3 hours old. I held her gently and cooed at her. She balled up her tiny fist and punched me in the nose. I looked at her said, It’s a little early for sibling rivalry – but don’t ever forget that you started it!