Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Life as a Fifth Child
A week or so ago I was unpacking. We've been in our house for a month now, but I'm still not quite done. First we had to wait for all of our things, then we had to wait for shelves to be constructed, and then our last consumable shipment arrived. I'm getting tired of dealing with all of our things. At this point I'm almost ready to burn everything to avoid dealing with it. Almost.
The older children were outside playing on our playground equipment. The day was beautifully warm and sunny, the perfect day for a walk. A few minutes after I got to work, Eleanor woke up from her nap. She has learned the art of rolling around the floor to find something that might interest here - a chair leg or drawer pull, book or toy - so she's usually pretty low-key when I'm getting things done as long as I don't leave her alone much.
I was working on a heavily cluttered storage room - the room where all of the uncategorized items got dumped while organizing all of the other rooms - and I didn't want Eleanor to get fussy and interrupt my work. So I hauled her downstairs, suited her up, and took her outside. After depositing her in the baby swing, I told the girls to keep an eye on her and went back to work, giving Eleanor a push on my way inside.
Every twenty minutes or so I would peek out the window to check on everyone and each time the scene would be different. Eleanor, alone in her swing while everyone else was perfecting the art of hanging upside down on the jungle gym. Kathleen pushing the stroller around the courtyard at breakneck speed with Eleanor strapped into the front, a red-plaid lump quietly watching her life flashing before her eyes. Eleanor, buckled into the stroller while everyone else is swinging. Sophia pushing Eleanor on the swing, performing underdog after underdog while Eleanor, again, reflected on how short her life had been.
Eventually the children got bored of outside and came tumbling back in. I checked to see if they had brought the baby in. Yes, yes of course mom, they assured me, because now we're going to dress her up! It's time for her royal wedding!!
Half an hour later and the procession came down from the third floor. Kathleen and Sophia, dressed in all of the gaudy frippery they could get their hands on, carried Eleanor in a laundry basket draped in the rest of the gaudiness that Kathleen and Sophia couldn't fit on themselves. The baby was outfitted in a white dress-up dress and draped in a cape, with a fuzzy pink crown in her head and make-shift ring on her finger, looking patiently about her, as always. "Business as usual," her expression seemed to say, "I never have any idea what they're going to do next. But I'm okay with that."
"Hail! Hail! Hail Queen Eleanor!!" the girls shouted in unison, as they passed me, "Queen of the babies! Hail Eleanor!" They continued their stately march and headed down the next set of stairs. I quietly followed and watched as they set her up in state on the couch cushions in the living room. Sophia started a song on the piano and both girls danced a dance before prostrating themselves before their infant sovereign. I went back to work, leaving Eleanor in the capable hands of her older sisters.
This is life as a fifth child. You never have to be lonely because someone's always interested in dressing you up or reading you a book or hauling you into their box house or riding horse with you or having a picnic or taking your toys or giving you theirs or pushing you in the stroller or putting you in the swing or sliding you in a laundry basket.
You may get confused about who exactly is your mother because sometimes the tall lady puts you to sleep or sometimes the glasses girl gives you your bath or the middle one feeds you a bottle or the bigger boy sings you a song or the little one gives you your blanket or the glasses man changes your diaper. There are so many people doing so many things that you can't keep track very well.
You never have to be bored because somebody's always talking or dancing or fighting or singing a song or reading a book or getting spanked or jumping on the couch or watching a movie or playing with toys.
Your job is to just sit back and watch the show happen. Maybe it might be a little scary on that stroller ride, but you're used to it. That brother jumping off the couch might get a little close, but you've seen it enough to know that he never quite lands on you. Perhaps you've been left all alone for awhile, but you know that it's just a matter of time before everyone comes back to find you. And you're never quite sure what is going to happen, but you do know that whatever it is, it will never, ever, ever be boring.
Sometimes I wonder what she's thinking while the crazy circus wheels loudly around her. Her placid blue eyes solemnly watch the world go by, never betraying any surprise or concern or confusion. Just watching. She is something different to each person in the family - a live baby doll, an audience for antics, someone to cuddle, someone to tickle, someone to steal Mom's lap.
But who is she to Eleanor? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.