My rocket scientist father and my social worker mother produced me, a rocket brain social idiot. People could blame it on “middle child” syndrome or the fact that I ride on the cusp of Leo/Virgo, but judging on predisposed factors isn’t fair, right? Until a quick Google search determines that “middle child” attributes to identity issues and empty feelings, which sums me up nicely.
During grade school these qualities affected my academics and focus, leaving my dad with a child who never cared for –brace yourselves– science or Star Wars or Space Camp. My third grade teacher caught onto my scattered brain and taught me vocabulary, like “nuisance” and “be quiet or I’ll throw this eraser at you.” With words like these, I excelled at homework! One evening, while my dad cooked grilled cheese, I sat on the countertop with my 3-year-old sister, Michelle. Poor thing waited giddily for her sandwich, while I bounced at the site of the tempting flesh on her right shoulder. As she watched the sandwich flip from pale white to golden brown, I pounced and gnawed into her skin, glaring while it transformed from pale white to a supple punctured purple.
She wailed as I sat shocked that my action could result in such a reaction. I felt so bad, but I also felt so good. My father punished me, but not enough to stop me from my spiraling conduct- I grew out my finger nails and started deep pinching, learned how to chuck objects in honor of my fast-pitching teacher and dabbled with psychological abuse.
Like most siblings, I hated mine and did anything to make their lives miserable. Michelle had a pink stuffed rabbit she creatively named, “Rabby.” She lived her life attached to this toy- in family pictures, Rabby sat; at family dinners, Rabby ate; on family road trips, stupid Rabby fastened in. The thought of destroying this inanimate family member filled me with fabulous anxiety, yet posed as quite the challenge due to their annoyingly unbreakable bond.
In my first attempt, I snatched the fluffy idiot while Michelle slept and hid it in the laundry room behind the machines. The next day, I heard her wailing that tearful tune I loved immensely, as she wondered what happened to her best friend. Unfortunately, I got dragged into the search and rescue effort, and had to perform as a worried search member, which felt like a chore.
“It’s not in the oven, dad! Or underneath the couch! Where would Michelle put that thing? I’ll look in the backyard, next,” I yelled and ran outside to sit in my playhouse while everyone continued the search.
An hour later, Rabby and Michelle reunited after everyone tore the house apart. They lived merrily together until the next month when I noticed our neighbors had a moving truck in their driveway. I asked my mom for details and she explained that The Wilsons were moving to Arizona.
“Oh, that’s sad. I liked them. Mom, can I play outside?”
“Sure, but don’t cross the street.”
Immediately, I tiptoed into Michelle’s room where she napped. When I reached for Rabby, she moved and I kissed her forehead carefully, gently whispering “I love you, my sweet sister.” I snagged Rabby, stuffed it under my shirt and proceeded to the front yard. For a few minutes, I danced around in the grass and waited for the movers across the street to return inside. I looked back to my home with a smile that ensured my mom’s careful eye everything was bright and sunny.
The second the working men vanished, I ran across the street, pulled Rabby from under my shirt and pushed it deep inside one of the boxes. I ran back with a rush of nerves because I forgot to look both ways before crossing, but once I arrived I commenced my solo dance routine until Michelle woke up. Her cries upset me so much this time because I knew they wouldn’t stop, for Rabby had moved to Arizona.
We banned together once again to find the bunny, but to everyone else’s shock it never resurfaced. I acted as surprised as they did and snickered to myself in bed, prideful as Ursula after stealing the voice of Ariel. Michelle’s recovery took a long time, but I offered up my Rainbow Bright doll I named Bucky D to appear as innocent as possible. She attached to that thing quickly because she had to hold onto something for comfort, and it wasn’t going to be me. I sure felt guilty about thatâ€¦Sorry Bucky D.
On my way home from school three months later, my mom mentioned she received a phone call from Mrs. Wilson.
“Danielle,” she said. “They found Rabby in one of their garage boxes. Do you know anything about this?”
“The WILSONS found Rabby???” I was utterly shocked and lost the ability to conjure up an excuse and rather than acting innocent, I wailed the way Michelle always did, begging for sympathy.
In light of the pinching pain of getting caught coupled with the strange new feeling of regret, I chose to relieve my sisters from torment and focus on subtler abuse, like making them refer to me as “Danielle, Queen of the Universe” or using them as slaves followed by empty threats like, “I’ll murder you if you’re not back with my water in 30 seconds.”
In fourth grade, we moved to Hawaii and acquired two cats from the previous residents of our new home. Cats are the worst. They infiltrate fresh air, clean furniture and walking paths everywhere. Although I acclimated to living on a rock, I never quite adapted to living with cats. I hated them the way I used to hate my sisters and decided to victimize one of themâ€¦Shoopa, our black cat. I heard a tale once that no matter what, cats always land on their feet. Shoopa loved and trusted me, probably because my heart matched the color of its coat, so I knew when carrying her to the second story balcony she did not suspect a thing.
As we approached the ledge, my petting became very attentive, assuring her of the nonthreatening situation to come. With each careful stroke, I calculated the time I had to catapult the cat before she realized her fate AND how to toss her without compromising my safety. I understood that if I didn’t chuck her quick enough her reaction would result in clawing. I also understood that if I didn’t flip her while tossing, the experiment would be deemed useless.
While holding her hind legs close with my left hand and petting her head with my right, I suspended her from the balcony and just like that pushed her head down and her hinny up with quick enough and hard enough force that she flipped wildly on her descent. Her wailing cry, reminiscent of my past repertoire of activities, satisfied me. However, she landed on her feet, which made me hiss.
I tried that experiment several more times throughout the years until we moved again, leaving the cats to the new residents. With each move and each birthday, my cruelty became more sporadic but still remainedâ€¦ like the time I threatened to push my eldest sister, Melinda, off the Hoover Dam with a face of burning fury or when I told the youngest, Nicole her birth was a mistake. I mean, my mom had her tubes tied and bang! Out came baby.
Ah! It hurts me now to think I once had a black heart that pained my sisters so dreadfully. But like my rocket scientist dad who once buried his brother next to a red ant pile like the Indians used to as torture and Joseph’s brothers who sold him to the Egyptians, I matured and my siblings eventually pardoned me, despite the scars. And after years of wildly flipping out, I turned to endless afternoons with Oprah and therapy to help me land on my feet on some solid ground ..like cats do.. God bless cats.