G-money asked me, “Who was the middle child in your family?”
“Are you kidding me? With nine kids, there was no middle; there were Big Kids, and Little Kids, and Loren.” It came out of me like a sneeze, no thinking about it, and certainly true. Still, the more I considered it, the more I thought maybe that was a lonely place to be. All the Big Kids paired up with a Pal Little Kid, and there was Loren, no Pal. Not like he needed one, Loren was golden.
When I was a little girl, other little girls surrounded me, Deanna, Bonita, Vickie. Then Mom brought home my first brother, Loren Dean III. Mom said people all the way in Texas could hear Dad shout out Yee Ha! when a son finally came into the world. Bonita’s boo-hoos must have drowned out the sound at my house, ’cause I didn’t hear any whooping and hollaring. Bonita was always trying to be Dad’s best boy, so when a real boy came into the house, she might have felt a tinsy bit like I imagined Gepetto’s other puppets felt when Pinnochio became a real boy. Left out.
I got to change Little-Dean’s diapers. I was six years old, and I wanted to show Mom what a big girl I was, so when Little-Dean cried, I just got him right out of the crib, got a clean diaper and did what needed to be done. I watched lots of times, so I knew how. I already helped Mom hang the diapers on the line and fold them when they were dry, two sharp snaps than in half long-wise twice, then in half again, I could imagine a Little-Dean-butt right inside, pinned in, all snug as a bug in a rug, with those great-big-giant safety pins with blue ducks on the end, then rubber pants over the diaper. It was easy, Little-Dean was kind of floppy like Deanna’s Tiny Tears. Mom was so surprised: her eyes got wide and her mouth shaped into a capital O.
“How did you get him out of the crib.” she asked. I showed her how I climbed up on the rail and hung by my belly over the top —that hurt just a little —and pulled Little-Dean right out. Then I jumped down, so proud about how I figured it all out.
I was a pretty smart little girl and could figure almost anything out. Mom said she was proud of me, I was such a big girl, but she really liked changing diapers more than anything, so please leave that to her from now on. After a while I guess diaper changing got old hat to Mom ’cause when Julie, Frank, Marcia and Johnny were born, I got to do all sorts of diaper changing.
Mom decided after a while that she didn’t like the sounds of “Little Dean”, and made everybody call the baby “Loren.” She said she didn’t want Little Dean, I mean Loren, getting to be a grown man like Dad’s brother and still be called “Little.” One of Dad’s brother’s was Junior to everybody but us, ’cause we had to call all Dad’s brothers “Uncle FirstName”, and “Uncle Junior” was way too silly sounding, so he was “Uncle Ellis;”
Ellis was his real first name, which was also Grandpa’s first name, that’s why everybody called Uncle Ellis “Junior,” even his wife. Mom told me Grandpa never wanted a boy named after him. Whew! I could sure understand that. Mom fixed it so no one could call the baby “Junior,” by naming him “Loren Dean III,” but that didn’t stop people calling him “Little Dean,” which was just as bad as “Junior” in her mind, so she put the kibosh on that one by telling everyone to call him “Loren.”
After all that, Mom started calling Loren “Loren-Deedie-Bopper.” I guessed she never thought how silly that would sound with Uncle tacked on in front.
I was super glad I had a name nobody else had, no one got me mixed up with anyone. Mom said that was true in more ways than one.
When Loren got to be big enough to talk, he told everybody he was going to be a corn-picker when he grew up, and he sat up tall and pushed his chest out, like he was trying to look the part, with a great big proud grin on his face. He had the best smile in the whole wide world, it was just like Dad’s, just washing up one side of his face, splashed out of his eyes, until his whole face was lit up. Sometimes when he tried to tease, he clamped his jaws down tight on his smile, but there was no way he could clamp down on his eyes and they just danced out a smile so big I didn’t even have to see his lips. I couldn’t help but smile when Loren smiled.
When Loren got his engineering degree, he showed me the suit he bought for interviewing.
“The books says to buy grey,” he told me. “I just couldn’t bring myself to conform like that, so I got green.”
“Green?” I said. I had a hard time imagining Loren in a green suit, until I saw it. I told him I was really proud of him; I kept it to myself that the suit was really grey, with a little bit of green thread running through, which I could just barely make out if I looked really, really close in the bright sunlight.
Loren never got to be a corn-picker, instead he got to be President of a an engineering firm that helps cities plan parks. He changed his name to “Loren Dean Jr.,” because he thought”Loren Dean III” was much too pretentious for him. No one ever calls him “Junior,” but I bet they call him “The Man,” He still is golden.
I hope Loren reads this and that grin washes up over his face and splashes out his eyes just the way I imagine it. Happy Birthday, Loren Deedie Bopper.