When I was a little girl, I had a little sister named Vickie. Vickie was the first baby I remember Mom bringing home, mainly because I was always trying so hard to get a peek at her. Vickie was the littlest of the Big Kids. The Big Kids had the most responsibility when we were growing up.
I had to stand on my tippiest-tip-toes to barely see Vickie wrapped up tight in her pink striped receiving blanket in that eyelet covered bassinet. Once, or maybe more times, I tipped the whole kit-n-kaboodle over on top of me and spilled Vickie right out into my lap. There we were, under the bassinet, little rays of sun coming through the basket weaves, like a cozy hide-away smelling like Ivory Snow and baby oil. I felt like I just swallowed one of those sunbeams, until Mom sucked in her breath really hard, as if she was getting ready to blow up a balloon , as big as the giant one that I saw outside the Dodge car-store. I knew that sound meant trouble. After that, Mom gave me a little stool to stand on, then I could see Vickie with no trouble at all.
Vickie had blond hair and blue eyes and a beauty mark on her cheek; not the cheek on her face either, the other one that only people who are really close to her ever get to see. I helped Mom change Vickie’s diapers, so I saw Vickie’s beauty mark lots of times. Having a beauty mark means the angels marked you special ’cause you’re so beautiful. Mom had a beauty mark too, on her big toe; she told me once that she almost got missed, but an angel grabbed her by the big toe, just as she was diving down from heaven. I don’t have any beauty marks.
Mom read us a book one time about a little angel that couldn’t get her star shined up good enough and kept getting in trouble with the head honcho angel, probably Michael, but the book didn’t point any fingers, you’re not supposed to tattle. The littlest angel always tried really hard to keep up with the bigger angels; she just kept rubbing and rubbing her star, never quite satisfied. For some reason, Vickie always made me think of that angel; probably ’cause her white hair floated around her head like a halo and her eyes were so true-blue, she must have gotten them in heaven, and her lips were like a little rosebud; or maybe because she tried hard to keep up with the other Big Kids.
Dad drilled holes in two boards, and threaded big thick hemp rope through the holes; he tossed the rope over a giant limb of a boxelder tree growing right outside the house, and voíla, we had two swings. Sometimes Deanna, me and Bonita pumped way up high and jumped out to see who could jump the farthest. We did this so much, the grass just got tired of trying to grow around there; not even weeds would give it a try, and we had weeds everywhere. If it rained, a big puddle of rain-water sat there right under the swings, then we had to run and jump to get on the swings and not get our shoes wet. One day Tom and Cathy, from next door, and Doug and Nancy, from across the road, were over and we had a big swing jumping contest. Two at a time jumped and then we marked a line in the dirt, so the next jumpers could see how far they had to go to be the winner. All us kids got really excited and we lost track of where Vickie was; she was too little to jump, she couldn’t even get up in the swing by herself, that’s how little she was. I guess she wanted to be a Big Kids ’cause the next thing I knew BAM! one of the swings hit her right in the mouth. That swing almost knocked one of her dog-teeth right out of her head. The tooth just stayed that way, all loose and dangly, reminding me that I let her get hurt, until she got to second grade and it was supposed to come out. Then the tooth fairy left her a whole dollar bill, and a note thanking Vickie for taking such good care of that tooth for such a long time.
We had a cousin, Janet, who was the same age as Vickie; Janet was Uncle Gerald’s and Aunt Millie’s little girl. Janet had the same angel-blond hair and angel-blue eyes as Vickie’s, and the two of them sucked the same finger of their hand when they got tired. Sometimes I asked Vickie if I could have some of her finger juice; she just shook her head “no” and laughed; that was a pretty funny joke we had. One Sunday, Vickie got right in Uncle Gerald’s car when it was time to go home. Uncle Gerald turned around in the driver’s seat to count his kids; he saw Vickie there and thought she was Janet. I guess he was a bad counter, ’cause he had one extra little girl. When he got all the way to his house, and Aunt Millie sat the supper-table, they realized they had an extra kid. Uncle Gerald just laughed because he thought Dad was playing a joke on him; those brothers were always playing jokes on each other. In the meantime, everybody else searched frantic-like for Vickie. Whenever something was lost and Mom wanted it found, I dropped everything and started looking, ’cause Mom got super-grouchy when she was looking for stuff and nobody helped. We even had a special prayer to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things: “Tony Tony, look around, something’s lost and must be found.” That day St. Anthony must have dropped everything, because everyone was praying, even the non-catholics. I bet a whole lot of prayers were left unanswered, on account of all the ones going up about Vickie; and the entire time she was at Uncle Gerald’s having a bowl of ice cream.
Vickie was the last of the Big Kids: Sometimes I was trying my darndest to be like Deanna, who just wanted to be left alone, Vickie was trying to be like Bonita, who was trying to be Dad’s best boy. Maybe we were always in some version of that swing contest, we just kept swinging and jumping and trying hard to make our mark, and once in a while something got knocked loose. I guess we all got lost now and then, sometimes we didn’t even realize it. The most important thing is that someone is always there to dust us off when we got knocked in the teeth and someone is there to celebrate when we find our way again.
Happy Birthday, Vickie