Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Operation Carnation: A ‘Little Girl’ Story

The excitement hung in the air like confetti forever frozen in a snapshot. It was palpable as we sat around the kitchen table staring at the piñata shaped like a baby carriage; it’s contents waiting to be whacked from its pastel-covered card board. It was like Christmas morning. But there was only one package to be shared by all of us, and we were all eager to know its secret contents. That is, those of us who had not already played this game.

I received a text message a couple of weeks prior to this particular October day that included an ultrasound picture and the words, “Are you ready to be a faux uncle?” I was caught completely off-guard by the image…and the words. So much so that I teared up immediately. I was so excited—overwhelmed, really—I could barely type my response. One of my dearest cousins (a member of The Family Band and basically a sibling) had finally made it past the first trimester and was now sharing her exciting news with her nearest and dearest who weren’t her immediately family. Other Band members already knew this information (you know who you are), but being the only other boy in the Band besides her brother I was the last member to know. I’m okay with that, but by now I would have thought I was an honorary girl, but I guess all those times I’ve said, “I’ve got a penis” after somebody calls me, “Girl” has paid off. I digress.

Cousins can become the best of friends. Three of mine, along with my sister, make up The Family Band (just a name we gave ourselves like The Little Rascals). The extraordinary thing for me is I’m the oldest (seven-and-a-half years older than the next of us) so I’ve seen them all be babies and grow into the people they are. And now I’m sharing in their lives as adults: sharing in their engagement surprises, attending their weddings, receiving their birth announcements. It’s an odd mix of feelings (love, happiness, anger, frustration, joy, contentment, excitement) all thrown together like the blend of seasonings that make up Shake ’n Bake: you might not know what they all are, but you know it’s good). We share our lives with each other—the important things and the mundane. “Cousins we shall always be. Special friends from the same family tree.” I seem to have taken a detour down the path marked sentimental. The prettiest flowers grow along that path. And I’m a sucker for a pretty flower.

Back to the story at hand.

I had a trip to Kentucky, to visit my parents and my sister’s family, booked for the first full week in October. My cousin and her husband live in Nashville, Tennessee and it’s a mere two-and-a-half hour drive to where my parents live. She told me she was going to be able to drive up for the weekend I was there, but even more exciting than the opportunity to hang out with her was the fact that she was going to reveal the sex of the baby to us. She was going to find out the results within days of my departure and had decided it would be the perfect opportunity to share the news with the extended family.

This is where the excitement of Christmas morning comes into play. My cousin’s mom and brother were privy to the information already and her mom (my over-the-moon happy aunt Cindy) was excitedly sharing the story of their own piñata experience. Excited to the point of me being afraid she was going to spill the beans herself before our piñata could spill its contents. Think about how excited you are about that one particular gift you’ve gotten someone for Christmas. Example: for Christmas 2013 I got my niece a beautiful purple Coach bag. I couldn’t stand not sharing my excitement with people that I knew would be as excited as I was. I took a picture of the bag and texted it to two of my cousins (two female Band members) and then showed the bag to my mom once I arrived in KY. The only people surprised on Christmas morning were my niece and her mom (my sister). I had to make myself not tell my sister. So you get the picture, right? It was that kind of excitement and desire to share that was radiating from my aunt as we sat around the kitchen table. I wanted to talk about that bag, but I had to choose my words and text recipients correctly or I might have inadvertently spilled the beans before Santa arrived. Excitement can get you into trouble. Thankfully, she also chose the right words and told just enough of the story to not spoil anything. Whew!

On a side note: Once I’d gotten the responses from those I’d chosen to share my excitement over the bag with, I completely changed my tune. I became protective of the contents of that box and determined to keep it from being discovered. I wrapped that package and put it under the tree way back in the back so that it was hidden and therefore unshakable. I can be Grinch-y like that.

All of us who didn’t already know were asked to guess what we thought the sex of the baby would be. I did really have a guess as much as I had a desire. All I could say was I hoped it was a girl. I don’t know why. I just wanted it to be a girl. I wrote my name under the word GIRL (again I say, I have a penis) and mine joined the other names who’d guessed the same.

Finally it was time. Think of it as 7am when you’ve been lying in your bed awake since 6am listening for any sound that told you someone else was up so that you could run into the living room and see all the wonderful toys Santa left under the Christmas tree.

Now here’s the funny part. A few of us had been playing the card game Phase 10 (a variation on rummy) earlier in the evening. It was decided (by someone, not me) that the order in which we would take a whack at the piñata would be the order in which the Phase 10 players ranked—first to last—in the game as it stood when we broke for dinner. Wouldn’t you know I was in first place. So I was on deck to go first. 

Can you see this? I was not prepared for this task. Those of you who know me know that I don’t like to be laughed at, and I don’t easily laugh at myself. (If you didn’t know that, now you do.) I enjoy telling the story to comedic effect when the situation is over, but I do not enjoy being in the situation while it’s happening. That said, I was not ready to be laughed at or laughed with, but by golly I was determined to do it anyway. Embarrassment be damned. ‘Cause you know I was embarrassed. Thankfully, it was still kind of dark in the dull brightness of the combined lights shining from the front porch and in the garage. 

I put on the blindfold and was spun around the requisite 5 times. I was then pointed toward the baby carriage that was dangling from a stick in the capable hands of my cousin’s brother (one who already knew the answer) and set free to “take a whack Ouiser” (Steel Magnolia’s reference). Everyone was excited. I could feel their excitement. The energy in the air was electric. Even the baby daddy, Matt, who was joining us via FaceTime must have been able to feel it. I began to laugh, took a breath then…whack! I connected. First try. I remember hearing two pieces hit the driveway below. Someone behind me yelled, “It’s a girl!”

I removed the blindfold. I looked at the slightly broken carriage then saw one pink Starburst lying on the ground. After that I don’t really know what happened. There was too much cheering and laughing and hugging. A blindfold-free member of my family finished off the piñata. The pink-wrapped candy from the piñata's belly lay on the ground below. Maybe it was better than Christmas. It was my family sharing an intimate moment filled with joy and love that was more special than anything wrapped in Christmas paper. It was a celebration of new life, the beginning of a new family. Soon enough Little Girl will know exactly what I’m talking about. Our story goes on.