World's Greatest Aunt.
Bridgette Luanne is the oldest.
I was a little worried when she was born.
Because I'd already given birth to two boys and they were already ten and twelve, which made me an authority on babies.
And my sister was not.
"Can she put her arms over her head?" I asked Louisa, who was admiring her little pink bundle of joy, lying there on her stomach with her arms down along her sides.
"Of course she can."
"Then why doesn't she?"
Rupert was next.
He was born just one year later.
"What's with all this projectile vomiting?" I said.
"The doctor says he will grow out of it."
I looked at her curdle stained shirt and back at his black brown eyes.
And then he shot some barf across the room.
"Well, I wish he'd knock it off," I said.
"You and me both," she says springing off the couch with her trusty rag.
And then came Thanksgiving.
And then, standing in her own kitchen, Louisa makes an announcement to our entire family.
"I am pregnant."
"Are you kidding me?" I screamed, while everybody else said congratulations.
You know, when your sister is pregnant you might as well be pregnant too.
Because you can't do anything fun.
Well sure enough, the following August, Sven and I returned from a canoe trip to Transylvania Trek, otherwise known as hell, but not near as terrible as that Fuck Creek trip, and we met the last of Louisa and Pierre's litter.
I am still to this day a little on edge, but it's been twenty-four years now, so I think they are all done.
The new guy was Christophe.
Christophe could not only put his arms over his head, when he did, he was about five feet long.
"This is your baby?" I said, my eyes wide underneath the rim of a baseball cap, still smelling like a campfire.
"Yeah," she said, sitting on an ass full of stitches on top of a pillow.
"How'd you get him out?"
"You do not want to know."
So, basically, she had triplets.
Or three children, three years apart.
And at the very same time that my sister was pounding nails through her carpeted hallway to keep it from squeaking, so nobody would wake up from a nap if she had to take a pee, I was climbing my career ladder and going to little league baseball games.
I was all the way up to customer service representative.
Now to get into that fancy position with my fancy clothes, I had to start out back at the bottom of the pile.
Which was hard after being top dog in the factory.
"What's that Louisa?"
Oh, my sister says that I was never at the top.
But she doesn't even know what a Floater is.
Anyway, my new hours were 10:30 AM to 7:30 PM.
The killer shift.
You might as well just shoot yourself.
But there was one bright spot in every day.
That is when I would stop at Louisa's house for a cup of coffee an hour before going to work.
Rupert would answer the door in a diaper.
"What are you doing here? You were here yesterday."
And then Bridgette Luanne would climb onto my lap as soon as I sat down at the table.
And Christophe, sitting in his highchair would give me one of his shy sideways grins and then sneeze-spray-oatmeal all over Bridgette Luann and me.
"Uggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh!" we would scream.
And then Rupert would shoot vomit across the table, which would stop just short of Bridgette Luann's Fruit Loops.
"Eeeeeewwwwwww!" we would scream.
And then Christophe would stare at me with his big round light brown eyes that were set above the world's tiniest nose, with matching green candle sticks streaming from it.
Here is a little secret.
If you keep your standards low, you are rarely disappointed.
"Those are our bagels, Blatner," Rupert told me one morning as I stuck it in the toaster slot.
Blatner was my nickname.
"Well, your mom said I could have one," I said.
"You had one yesterday."
"How old are you?"
Bridgette Luann, the older sister, was the exact opposite.
She was very accommodating.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" she would say.
"Why yes, I would. Thank you."
"Would you like a glass of wine or something?" she would ask my mom when she popped in.
No matter the time.
And then my hours changed.
And then customer service got shipped to Pennsylvania.
And then I landed in a payroll position.
So, I was stopping by at all different times of the day.
"What is up with him?" I said to Louisa one afternoon.
"Who?" she says.
I pointed to Rupert who was pushing a pink grocery cart about his size, full of stuffed animals, around and around the island in the kitchen, wearing a diaper, a pink and purple boa around his neck and sparkly heels.
"Oh. It's just his new thing," she says.
By the time Rupert was four, we were pretty sure that he would someday be a New York executive with his pacifier pinned to his lapel.
And there was that time I stopped by at lunch when Christophe declared, "Blatner, I wuv pee soup."
Christophe had exquisite taste for such a young guy.
And a healthy appetite.
Even after getting off the Tilt-O-Whirl at the Lodi Fair. He walked toward whiter than a Wisconsin ass in January.
He had just puked.
But he was not deterred.
He ate a hamburger while his mom ran home to get him a new shirt and then he took off to go on more rides.
And Bridgette Luann had a way of making phone calls interesting.
"Hello?" she answers.
"Hi, is your mom home?"
"Yes. What's Leonard doing?"
Leonard was our dog.
"He's taking a nap."
"What? He's taking a nap? I don't have to take morning naps anymore. I only take one in the afternoon."
"Oh. Is your mom home?"
Or that other time.
"Hello?" she answers.
"Hi. Is your mom home?"
"Will you go and get her?"
"I can't. She's in the shower and she said not to come in there."
"Oh. Well, is your dad home?"
"Um. Can you go and get him?"
"I can't. He's in the shower too and he said not to come in there."
"Hey Blatner guess what happened yesterday?"
"Well, me and my mom and the boys all went out for lunch."
"We went to the Press Box."
"That sounds like fun."
"No. It wasn't. Rupert knocked his drink over."
"Oh. That happens."
"And then right after Mom got it all cleaned up, Christophe knocked his over. And it was because they were both fooling around."
"That's too bad."
"Yeah. The pop went everywhere. All over the table and all over the floor."
"And while Mom was cleaning the second one up the boys started running around and around the table and they wouldn't even listen to my mom."
"She was really mad."
"I bet she was."
"Do you know what she said?"
"I'm afraid to know."
"She said, "This is the last time I will EVER, EVER take you boys out for lunch again until you are sixteen!"
"Wow. Sixteen. That's a long time."
"Yep. So from now on, it's just going to be me and my mom."
That little girl sounded like she'd just swallowed a canary.
And then there was the day that Rupert almost gave his favorite aunt, Millie Noe, a heart attack.
I walked in their front door.
The only person in the living room was Rupert.
There he sat on the couch watching Sponge Bob Square Pants.
His lips were pressed tightly together, and they were moving up and down and up and down and then in little circles as he swung his legs over the side of the sofa.
I stared at him.
He looked at me.
His eyes were bright with excitement.
It seemed as though he had something to say.
And then his lips stopped.
"Hey Blatner," he says.
"Do you swallow?
"LOUISA!!!" I screamed.
And I ran down the hall over the nailed carpet to find my sister, the mother of the three charming children who gave me the above plaque that has been hanging in every little gray cube that I have worked in, since.
"It's his first piece of gum," she says.