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Jul 18, 2014

Perfect Child

chocolatesRemember that sister I mentioned who cheated me out of my Ginny doll clothes?

All I wanted was her attention. She was beautiful, creative, smart and bigger than I was. I wanted to sleep in the bed with her, cuddle, have her love me and pay attention to me.

But, no.

She shunned me. Maybe it was because I was the perfect child. She came along in my parents’ new marriage and was a challenging baby. Even more challenging than the average infant. My mother was inexperienced with no maternal skills and no role model, and along comes this needy child who vomited after every feeding.

Having had my own share of projectile-vomiting babies, I know what’s it’s like to have to clean up everything–the crib, their clothes, your clothes–let alone have some semblance of order in your life. And I had support in my marriage, which Mom clearly didn’t. No wonder Molly became the scapegoat in the family. Everything that went wrong after that became her fault.

Along comes Jane. Dad’s in a new job, we’ve moved to the middle of the country, and I’m born. I’m placid, brown-eyed like Mom, and quiet. Prop a bottle of sweet formula in my mouth and I’m easily satisfied. Then, anyway.

I guess she resented me.

We grow up and Beth and I share a room. Molly gets her own room and promptly shuts the door and keeps me out. We had a wall phone in the hallway with a cord long enough that the receiver could be pulled into any of our bedrooms and we could talk there. This was in the days of one phone number per family, no call-waiting, and no privacy in my room. I had nothing I needed privacy for, but Molly did.

She would lean up against the door, phone cord dangling between the middle of the hallway and her bedroom, and stay there for hours.

Of course, I had to look under the door to spy on her.

And what did I see? Mom’s slipper ashtray, the bronze one, with a cigarette resting on the curved holder. Molly was smoking! I had to tell on her.

That may have added to her resentment, but my hunch is that it started before that. Hiding boxes of chocolates under her bed, then lying about where they might be when Mom or Dad asked if anyone had seen them. Molly would collude with us by inviting us in to partake of the bounty. Crushing the bottoms of the candies to determine if they were the disgusting gel-filled ones or the highly sought after creams, caramels or mints. Now that we were party to the crime, we couldn’t snitch anymore.

Maybe my tattling had something to do with Molly not wanting me  to ride in the car with her and Sally Harris who drove her to school every day. I had to walk two blocks and stand outside in the freezing cold and wait for the bus. Those were the days when girls not only had to wear skirts to school, but nylon stockings were de rigueur and short skirts were in style. Imagine standing in 20 degree weather waiting for the bus with your ass sticking out, holding a boatload of books because no one carried a backpack or even a book bag. There was so much to balance.

But Molly was picked up at the door and I had to navigate the freezing cold. “Sally doesn’t have insurance for another passenger,” Molly lied.

She always lied. Not that anyone believed her, but it delayed the response time and punishment.

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  1. Suzanne Ste. Therese

    Dear Jane, I love this entry! There is something about sisters…. I don’t know about you but some of the residue of this type of childhood experience never seems to quite go away. Even though my sister and I laugh about such things there is still an undercurrent. Thank you for this descriptive and enjoyable memoir. I could feel the tension of the tattle, the jealousy, the bossiness, etc. Yay! Suzanne

  2. janepollak

    I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for stating it so beautifully.

  3. Sas Carey

    Makes my belly hurt just reading it.

  4. janepollak



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