Even before recent events and funerals, it had not escaped my attention that I was a member of the Amazing Shrinking Family. Mix up a bunch of only children, a healthy dose of familial estrangement, and a dab too many elderly relatives and you eventually end up with a very compact family.
On most days, this is something Adam and I just deal with, because it’s not like we can buy new family. At least, I don’t think so. Perhaps there is an entire Family Member Black Market out there that I am the last one to know about. Kind of like when I finally discovered Facebook in 2008 and kept going around telling people about this BRAND-NEW WEB SITE YOU’VE GOT TO CHECK OUT THIS BRAND-NEW WEB SITE IT’S SO NEEEEEWWWWW.
I’d say Aura has also come to terms with the curse of the small family, but lately I think that might be a touch off the mark. As a matter of fact, I daresay she’s rebelling. This is the biggest clue:
That’s Bath Baby. The only real doll-doll Aura has ever owned, Bath Baby is the result of my mother’s theory that all little girls should have dolls. Unfortunately for Bath Baby, not only was he not worthy of playing with in the bath, as he was intended, he was also not worthy of a proper moniker.
For months, Bath Baby languished in the tub toy bin, his bald head taking on a moldy green kind of sheen, an intensely sour smell emanating from his miniscule onesie. It was sad, but that’s life, and so Bath Baby learned to suck it up.
But then Aura started talking about how having a brother or sister might be nice. She was stealthy at first. “Look, Mommy! Look at how cute Ella’s brother is!” she’d say. I’d agree and change the subject, bribing her with candy like all good mothers, every one of whom knows that one lollipop = ten minutes of silence.
When subtlety failed, Aura ramped up her efforts. While out to lunch one time last month, Aura realized that the group in the booth behind us included a baby, snugly asleep in his infant carrier. Before I could stop her, she stood up on her seat, casually leaned an elbow on the top of the booth, and waved a mac-and-cheese-stained hand in the other mother’s direction.
“Oh! Your baby is SO CUTE!” she announced at top volume, turning briefly to ensure I was listening. “I wish I had a baby,” she continued, driving home her point by gesturing with a broccoli floret. “I keep TELLING my mommy to grow another baby, but she won’t do it.” There was a dramatic pause, then a deafening sigh, and then she sank to her seat, the weight of her only-childness heavy on her shoulders.
Aside from striking us momentarily speechless, this scene had little effect on Adam and me. And so Aura has thrown the gauntlet once again. This time she’s not alone. This time she is armed.
There are no words this time, not in this phase of attack. There is only Bath Baby. He is constantly present. He accompanies us most everywhere. It’s uncanny. I walk out of the bathroom, he’s there. I wake up, and he’s on the nightstand. I almost broke a foot on his pointy-ass little hands last night, ignorant as I was of his presence in a DARKENED HALLWAY. AT MIDNIGHT.
You know, there are moments when I weaken, when I think, Hey, a second child might not be that bad of an idea. Aura needs more family. But then I see Bath Baby, with his vacant eyes and mouth-breather lips, and I think, Nah.