Alright, it all started with a present Serena got for her 4th birthday, which was in April. My mom had to pull me aside and have a one-on-one with me to break the news about the gift my bratty little sister would be opening on her birthday. I’m sure it started with something to the effect of “You know Cliff and I love you very much, right?”
I don’t know exactly what came next, but I do know that I was bawling my eyes out by the end of it. Serena was going to be the first person in our family to have a Cabbage Patch Kid?! … Devastation. And more motivation for the Oppressed Middle Children Strike I’d been secretly planning for years.
After I wiped away my last tear, I did the most mature thing I could think of at the time. I asked Clair if I could see this bastard child my little sister would soon be adopting. She obliged and even opened the box to put my future niece in my arms. Aside from the fact this thing had a bigger noggin than my own, it was the most beautiful little girl I’d ever laid eyes on. She had big brown eyes and gorgeous long, thick dark hair. Clearly a Latina, just like her Tia X.
Before I could start rocking her, Clair tugged that little girl right out of my arms and reminded me that Christmas wasn’t that far away. Even though it was April, I acted like I’d never seen a calendar and watched closely to see where Clair took little Odetta Ariel.
I’m pretty sure there were a couple weeks between the time I got the devastating news and Serena’s actual birthday. During those two weeks I would come home from school, take Odetta Ariel out of her box and rock her to sleep. She was very distrustful and slept with her eyes wide open, but the bond we were forming was unmistakable. I’d sing her songs, peek at that wild tattoo on her butt and play with her hair until Serena came home from pre-school. Sometimes I’d even explain to Odetta that mean people would be taking her away in a few days and putting her in the arms of a little girl who was half my age and therefore unfit to be a mother. She’d just smile, flashing those cute dimples, never pointing out that putting her in a dark box every night probably made me unfit, too.
Then Serena’s birthday came and my world crashed down around me. I don’t know if everyone was actually staring at me when she opened her big present, but my 8-year-old imagination sure thought they were. Serena was overjoyed. I tried to smile, but I seriously felt like that mom the “Today Show” would do reports about every morning while I ate my bowl of mostly sugary milk and a few corn flakes. She was a surrogate and grew so attached to the baby that she was trying to keep it as her own. After a judge finally ordered it, police had to go to her house and tear the baby from her arms because she wouldn’t let it go. There was a lot of screaming and sobbing, police cars and paparazzi. Never mind that I was in 3rd grade. I knew EXACTLY what the infamous surrogate mother felt like.
I ran out of that birthday celebration a blubbering mess. Never one for drama, I yelled “this is so unfair!” instead of “nobody loves me!” While Serena gave Little O, as she came to be known in our house, hugs and kisses upstairs, I was downstairs making the signs for that strike.
The next eight months went by about as fast as the cold tongs do at the gyno’s. That’s when I started a different after school ritual. It involved going downstairs to the storage closet and staring at a another little girl in another plastic box. Forget that I was spoiling my own Christmas Day surprise, she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever laid eyes on. Her name was Sheila Rebecca. She had glasses, dimples, a pink binky and short, curly blonde hair. Clearly she wasn’t a Latina like her soon-to-be mommy, but I was always a proponent of inter-cultural adoptions and loved her like my own.
In case you were wondering, Serena got a little boy that year. A kid named Ruben who wore a clown costume everywhere he went. There were no surrogacy episodes. Perhaps because I found the clown thing a little creepy, but I was too busy being a single mom to fuss with all that, anyway. Oh, and the Oppressed Middle Children Strike was put on hold. I put it back into action, though, when Chet was given a generous curfew a few months later.