Friday, December 21, 2001

Babies and Christmas

So the baby was born. Remember the baby shower from a month ago? Well, here she is. This is who we showered. First pictures from the hospital.

Her name is Chloe (just like Bonnie's Baby) and she came to be on the 18th in the afternoon. I put these pictures together because there are two things that strike me. First of all, my friend the mommie, looks SPECTACULAR. Look at how clean and soft and pretty her hair is. And her skin looks so pretty. She's a beautiful girl. And I hate her. I looked like someone put a burlap bag over my head and beat me with a sack of doorknobs by the time I was done having both babies. Death. She holds her girl with such self-assurednesses and strength. This is her second baby, and I think that she looks the role, ready. Centered. Satisfied.

The second thing that I love here is the picture of daddy. Look at his hands. I think that when I look at pictures of men holding their babies, the hands are what strikes me the most and it melts me to the core.

One big, grown up mitt gently cushioning that little melon, trying not to bend her neck forward too far, but not wanting to let her movements and gravity cause her injury. The other lifting, supporting, cradling the backend. I adore the hands of a father on a child. And this picture shows me all I love of it.

I wish them both the best of joy and health and happiness here with this wonderful gift. I wish Christine's daughter Sam (age 8) nothing but joy as well in now having a little sister.

And that's what I want to write about today.
Having a little sister. At Christmas.

About the same time in the year, only back in 1969, something similar happened to me. I was a lot younger than Samantha when I got a sister, I was three. My mother gave birth to Linda Jean on December 21, and brought her home Christmas Day.

I don't remember any of it. Being three, I don't think my memory kicked in until like 4 or so... I have a picture in my mind, which I am unsure whether or not it comes from an actual picture or a memory, of me looking at her in the stocking she was put into and placed by the tree. Check this picture out of me holding her... mangling her face. The helpful adult hands on either side are my mom's and my grandmother's. I cropped them both out so you can get the full Chrissie Mangling Baby impact here.

My life would be forever changed. And it wasn't until I was in college that I really realized it was forever blessed.

I recall childhood moments when my mother foisted her upon me, demanding that I play with her or take her someplace with me. I remember being livid that I couldn't cross the road to go to the playground until I was like 20 but she could at like 5. That pissed me off (that's an incredible exaggeration but my mom did sin in the realm of letting the youngest do stuff sooner in life than you let the first born because she realized it wasn't as dangerous as she thought...)

I remember thinking my sister was a bratty pain in the ass, and was sick of her fighting with my mother, and I was so relieved to run away to college at age 17 and leave her and my parents behind never to return for any serious length of time.

On phone calls, mom would regale me of stories of fights she and Linda would have and I would hang after the discussion so relieved that I wasn't there to see or hear any of it.

While I was in college, I invited her up to visit. I found her to be a funny and pleasant person to be around. Who the hell was this person? This 15 year old smartass with the quick, intelligent wit and the dazzling smile and blue eyes? Where did the bratty little boogernose tag-along hemorrhoid of a sibling go?

Then, it occurred to me -- she wasn't a problem person. Our home life sucked pretty bad sometimes (we weren't abused, our mom and dad just had their issues, and it was a small place, and this impact on us at the time was far greater than they could have imagined...) Instead of banding together against the common travails of childhood, I locked myself in my room and locked her out of my life. My way of dealing with problems was to retreat into good books and better music, and to just barricade the door against any infiltration, even a great ally in the course of battle.

Which left her out, dealing with things in very different ways.

I could have been there for her, but chose to be alone for me.

And there we were -- out of the house, in a new, safe, fresh environment. And the personalities could be what they were supposed to be. It was a time not only for me to discover life outside of my home, but to discover a person who lived in my home for years... who I never really got to know.

It became a joy to know her.

When Doug and I got married, I asked her to be in my wedding party. She was shocked. True, to that point in our lives we weren't close, but I knew at that point what I wished I had known my whole life...

that she didn't suck, she wasn't a pain in the ass. She was a wonderful person and one whom I wanted to have a better relationship with for the rest of my life.

I have stated before in this journal that I think it sucks when you are stupid when you're younger. Some of the incredibly retarded, stupid attitudes and thoughts I had when I was growing up, the things I wanted and the things that I didn't want, I wish I could do them over.

Thing is, that these stupid asinine and childish thoughts help turn you into the adult you become. Sometimes you learn from them and look back and say "What the hell was I thinking? What was my problem???"

You grow and change because of them and the epiphany point you hit that sends bolts of enlightenment through you.

Sometimes you never learn.

In my case I sure did. And I learned that I love this girl. Wouldn't have it any other way.

The older we got, the more I realized we had in common. We like all the same comedy, most of the same music. We have similar aesthetic tastes, and we both are sardonic, and sometimes nasty evil when being "funny." We deal with stress differently. I laugh it off, she internalizes... but in the end, we have each other to turn to.

That's what matters the most.

The thing that now strikes me is that she's pretty good with my kids. Not the same person she was when Jessica was first born, when we'd come visit and she'd go visit friends instead of hanging out with us. Now, she spends time, and plays the Auntie Lee Lee role very well. My kids get on her last nerve, especially that boy... but she weathers it wonderfully and with increasing good humor.

She is kind, giving... sometimes to excess.

She has had tough times, but always seems to be there for other people when they are in need, and puts her own problems aside.

She is sensitive and soft at times, even though she sometimes puts forth what Christopher Kelly referred to as her "steely New York Bitch" facade.

People ask her a lot "why don't you smile?" because she seems to have this mean face on when she's going about her business. Because she's focused and determined. When Linda was in Highschool and after high school she worked at a restaurant. She'd walk around and be very efficient, but didn't smile much. Doug referred to it as her "Friendly Face," a play on the name of the restaurant where she was enslaved. But it wasn't that she was pissed to be there... she's just so serious most of the time. It became kind of this joke among us.

Next time you are at a restaurant and your waitress is walking around grinning like a freak, just be aware she may be friendly but I guarantee she's not efficient.

Which do you want more?

I have some good Linda anecdotes, and lyrics to a song that my uncle Ken made up about her when she was very small... but I won't embarrass her that way here. Anyway, I have promised not to sing the song. Or reveal said lyrics. Ever.

It's the poor girl's birthday.

And the point of this entry is for me to say that I love and adore her. And Christmas 1969 changed my life for good.

For the rest of my life, no matter how old I am, or if we're not in contact, she will be one of the first things on my mind every Christmas morning.

And the fact that God gave me such a gift, twice, the gift of his Son and the gift of my sister -- I am forever thankful for the holiday season.

And my wish for Samantha is that she'll love Chloe the same way. That early in her life she'll learn how wonderful it is to be a big sister. I try to impress this on my daughter as the first born, to love and take care of her brother and get to know him and help him grow into a good human instead of pushing him away. Perhaps she'll have the same experience as me and will wake up one day and say, "Wow, this person, this snotty brother... he rocks!"

I can only hope.

Merry Christmas, happy birthday, I love you Linda.

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