8/12 is Middle Child’s Day–Time for a Middle Child Story
I’m a middle child. My older sister was a force of nature, even when she was sick. Mom lavished much-deserved attention on her–we all did. My younger sister was so cute and artsy. We all watched her for sheer entertainment value. I was plain: reliable, smart, sturdy, and helpful–easily confused with a Saint Bernard.
I tried to grab adult attention by impressing them with my good nature, and manners. Since these qualities were expected of children, my plan was flawed from the start. It’s a good thing that I was pudgy and klutzy–not the kind of attention I wanted, but attention, nonetheless.
I wasn’t fussy when it came to fashion. I couldn’t be. My mom had to shop at a “special” clothing store for me when it was time for school shopping. I believe it was a fashion shop for nursing home residents. The garments were either all stretchy or large enough to slip on. Zippers and buttons were outlawed in this store–probably for safety reasons. Under too much pressure, these devises could explode and become the equivalent of shrapnel.
One memorable shopping expedition when I was about 12, Mom found a cotton cap-sleeved dress (no buttons or zippers). I was supposed to slip it over my head and let the yardage hang, camouflaging my budding breasts and protruding belly. Hawaiians call these garments muumuus. This was a new fashion low for me, but polyester pants came in only so many colors.
Inside the dressing room, I gathered up the folds of material over my head and inserted my arms through the cap sleeve holes. This was a big mistake. I underestimated the girth of my upper arms and overestimated the size of the sleeve holes. When my arms got stuck, I remembered that cotton doesn’t stretch. I was in the dressing room trapped inside this dress. Each time I tried to move my arms in or out of the sleeves to escape Smother Smock, the material constricted, tourniquet-like, blocking circulation to my flailing arms. I could just see the Coroner’s report: Victim–Husky blonde pre-teen; COD–Lack of oxygen due to upper arm strangulation; Manner of Death–Suspicious, appears to be self-inflicted but investigation on-going.
Mom called from behind the doors of the dressing room, “How does it look?” In calmest voice I could conjure from behind the folds of Smother Smock entombing my upper body like a sarcophagus, I said, “I don’t like the color on me. I don’t think I’ll take this one.” If only she knew that Smother Smock was taking me…
With a rare prayer to the heavens and one more shoulder shimmy, I heard the blessed sound of a slight rip as some stitching gave way. One sleeve came loose! I liberated my arms from the jaws of Smother Smock without further damage to either the dress or me. My face was red, my hair askew, and my upper arms bore the tell-tale ring of ligature marks when I left the dressing room.
“For someone who didn’t like the dress, you were in there a long time, Lorna,” my mother remarked. Then she saw my upper arms. She looked at me with both confusion and concern. Before she could ask the question I didn’t want to have to answer, I said, “Let’s look for some stretchy pants and tops.”
At least my Mom noticed me. Score!