Tuesday, October 19, 2010
My Brown-Eyed Girl
I have some new readers and it's been a while since I updated longtime readers on the different players around here so I thought I would introduce/reintroduce the family.
Our youngest family member is Sophia. You can call her Sophie or Phia, too. Back before I started using our real names on the blog, She went through a series of name changes depending on her dominant characteristics at the time. When I first started blogging, I referred to her as The Youngest. That quickly changed to The Baby, who morphed into Cupcake. After the episode where she, in a fit of pique, threw her brother's golf clubs out the second floor window, she became Resident Evil. Her Swedish period followed. She became intensely private so I called her Garbo.
When I decided to go give up any pretense of privacy, I asked my family if I could use their names and they simply shrugged. They were still incredulous that anyone cared or even read my blog. They clung to the notion that you guys were the equivalent of my childhood imaginary friend Cynthia. She looked like Cindy Brady and did awfully mean things to my brother, made messes and lost things.
As they've gotten older and their lives more complex, I tend to ask if I can blog about things. They've become accustomed to the blog being part of our lives. They just instinctively know when I'm thinking Oh, I am blogging this. And they're mostly cool with it.
So Sophia - she's eleven going on thirty. I know that's cliche, but ever since this kid gave up her penchant for wearing only dresses and boots and stopped skipping through the house singing the Hoot Hoot Zoo Pals jingle one day and asked me to show her how to make soup, she's been ready to get her own apartment.
In many ways the stereotypical spoiled youngest child, she's taken advantage of the fact that with her birth in the middle of a snowstorm in January 1999, MathMan and I became outnumbered. She learned early on that crying is a highly effective method for getting one's way when your parents are burnt out.
This has also caused her to be wildly unpopular with her siblings. It's possible that there have been some half-hearted attempts made on her life. I've stopped trying to discern between accidents and premeditated events.
Sophie is both delightful and exhausting. Like me, she is a loner, preferring her own company. When she arrives home from school, she needs a lot of decompression time to sit in front of the TV and snack. Sometimes she naps, wiped out from all that human interaction. We'll have a brief exchange about our days and then doing our own things. Around eight o'clock, just when I'm ready to fly about the house prepping it for the next day's early morning launch, she'll find me and begin a conversation. I learn a lot about this kid's world while I'm pulling things from the clothes dryer or putting away dishes.
Sadly, she's used to having to vie for my attention. Unlike her sister who had MathMan and me to herself for nearly five years before any siblings arrived to wreck her only-child Nirvana, or her brother who has a way of commanding attention by his mere presence, Sophie knows that if she must make herself heard over the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, and the voices in my head. I remind myself to stop and focus on her because one of my recurring nightmares is the scene where Emilio Estevez asks Ally Sheedy what her parents did to her and she answers, "They ignore me." But Ally Sheedy has my daughter's face.
And MathMan wonders why I wake up screaming.
Sophie is the artist in the family. She draws and paints. She writes stories. She's a multi-media artist who produces her own sculpting material out of household items like flour, glue, powder, perfume, toilet paper and shaving cream. Sometimes it's hard for a neat freak like me to let Sophie be Sophie in that regard. I rage around cleaning up the bowls and spoons covered in heaven knows what, bellowing that this better be the last time she uses the antique library table in her bedroom for a mixing surface. Meanwhile, she sits nodding and smiling. She's probably thinking of her next project which has just been inspired by some angle of my angry expression or my face's shade of crimson.
Or maybe she's more spontaneous and consequences don't even enter her mind. An idea comes to her and before she can think about the resulting Mother Outburst, she's spraying the shaving cream into the bowl of glitter and lemon zest.
These artistic endeavors often take place right after she's had her midnight snack. It's no rare thing for me to find among the soap shavings and Qtips the remnants of a meal to rival Dagwood's late night multiplex-sandwiches. A half-empty yogurt cup, the Cheez-Its box with six perfectly square crackers hiding at the bottom, three glasses of water, and a Hershey Bar wrapper.
All of this goes on behind her closed door while MathMan and I sleep in blissful ignorance down the hall. I become aware of Sophie's late night art installations when, awakened by the Spokescat who has mastered the perfect combination doorknob rattling and yowling, I stumble down the hall, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. The smell of raspberry shaving cream overwhelms me, wafting from Sophie's door which now stands ajar. I open the door and to find the floor covered in art supplies and discarded clothing. A Full House rerun is playing on the little TV that now doubles as a place where Foam and Tissue become Art.
It's nothing for Sophie and I to have a brief conversation that begins with me asking stupidly why her hands are orange. Or red. Or blue. The answer is usually quite simple. "Sharpies."
Not surprisingly, Sophie is also a magnet for office supplies. At some time or other, every pen, pencil, marker, crayon, colored pencil, glue stick, tape dispenser, binder clip and pair of scissor in our household has been part of the ever changing landscape of Sophie's bedroom. If someone is forgetful enough to ask the question aloud "Have you seen my blue felt-tipped marker?" they quickly recover and go to stand in Sophie's doorway, scratching their head and wondering if it wouldn't just be easier to use their black felt-tipped marker. If they can find it, that is.
It's not that her room is messy - I see to that each day because otherwise, we'd have lost her under the mountain of stuff years ago. Nevertheless, her room becomes a vortex for things. It's been rumored that there is a wormhole connecting her bed to six other dimensions, but I've resisted the urge to investigate. Life is exciting enough right now.
Naturally, she fights my attempts to keep her off that TV show Hoarders. Like many kids, her clutter management style is a combination of denial and stuffing things wherever she can. It's nothing for me to find her cellphone, the TV remote, her missing language arts homework, three socks, a penny, a marker, popcorn and a couple of Gogurt wrappers stuffed between the sofa cushions. And I clean those suckers out pretty often, otherwise, I'd never have any kitchen utensils.
But reality is subjective around here so we try to find some common ground. I don't want her to become a total slob, but I also understand that not everyone shares my need for uncluttered surfaces.
Our conversations go like this.
"Did you clean your room like I asked you to?"
"For real? I mean, would it pass the Lisa test?"
She considers this. "Yes."
"Better go double check."
I don't see her again for awhile. But don't think for one second that she's in her room cleaning. She's grabbed her phone from between the sofa cushions and ducked out to go run the streets with the other Covered Bridge Springs Tarts.
Later I visit her room, snooping to see where she might have hidden things. She's clever. The wastebasket overflows with aborted drawings, class newsletters she makes for her imaginary school room, gum wrappers, a couple of dried out markers without their tops.
"Well, I'll be," I say, looking around. "She really did clean." I feel a little chagrined for being so hard on the kid. I really should give her more credit.
I start to leave, thinking I'll take the trashcan and empty it for her when I hear a noise behind me. I turn to see a tiny purple man climbing from the crack between her mattress and the bed's foot board. He's covered in glitter. A paper clip juts from his collar, one of Sophie's long-missing socks clings to his pant leg, and he's left a trail of crumbs and bits of paper in his wake. He stands on the bed, his red eyes snapping open and shut in consternation. He starts to speak, but stops and sticks out his green tongue to pick a feather from it.
I sigh. "Let me guess....."