Three's a Crowd: A Tale of Second Childhood
My small condo is getting much too crowded. I had become accustomed to living alone, and I enjoyed my freedom and independence. But now I have two uninvited house guests.
The first one to move in without my permission a few years ago was an old lady who didn't even have the courtesy of introducing herself to me and who never speaks to me. The ugly crone simply lurks in my mirrors and generally makes my life miserable. She's very sadistic and enjoys inflicting pain in all my joints.
As if that weren't bad enough, my living situation has now become even more intolerable. A bratty kid has also invaded my home. Unlike the old lady, this new resident is completely invisible. I never see her or her reflection anywhere. But she's here all right.
She leaves chewy caramels around even though she knows I can't resist them. She hopes a few teeth will fall out so the tooth fairy will come in the night and leave shiny quarters which she, of course, will steal before I wake up-that is, if I ever fall asleep. You see, she has also somehow irritated the sandman so much that he almost never visits any more. She's delighted about that, because when I can't sleep, I get out of bed and go into the den and turn on the computer which she then appropriates. Instead of letting me answer my e-mail, write an article, or do some research, she snatches the mouse and clicks onto Solitaire or Hearts. I have absolutely no control over her. She plays those stupid games until 3:00 or 4:00 AM before she lets me shut off the computer and go back to bed.
She also likes non-computer games and toys and has claimed a good chunk of my limited closet space to house her collection. When friends with children visit, she hauls out her cache and insists I join in the games instead of conversing with the adults. So I'm stuck playing Candyland or Go Fish, while the grown-ups get to discuss stimulating topics such as the fluctuation of the peseta or whatever happened to aluminum Christmas trees. It's just not fair.
The holidays are particularly stressful since the kid has arrived. On New Year's Eve, because she's too young to be allowed into the glamorous night spots to which I receive a myriad of invitations, she won't let me go. No, I have to stay home with her and watch that ridiculous ball drop in Times Square.
On February 14th she intercepts the mailman and confiscates the valentines from all my handsome suitors. She even destroys the cards the old lady insists her beaus still send. The kid thinks "beaus" is a funny word; and she says the old lady lies when she claims she ever had any. You can't imagine the ruckus this causes between the two of them! I'm tired of acting as referee.
Then there's April Fool's Day. I swear I'll disconnect the phone if the kid doesn't stop calling tobacco shops and asking if they have Prince Albert in the can. I blame the old lady for teaching her that ancient prank. They either bicker or get into mischief together. I don't know which is worse.
On Easter, the old lady insists that the kid put on a new hat and go to church, but the kid prefers to stay home and hunt for colored eggs and chocolate bunnies. More fighting.
The kid also loves Halloween. Even though I tell her that no children ever come trick or treating in my building, she insists on stockpiling candy, just in case. Naturally, it's always all left over. For days afterwards, while stuffing her own face with caloric goodies, she also manages to force feed me.
At Christmas she whines because I refuse to take her to see Santa Claus. I tell her she's not a baby any more and it's time she stopped believing in that myth. Nevertheless, she never fails to hang a stocking every Christmas Eve. Of course, it's empty in the morning which makes her very depressed with longing for the good old days. How does she know about the good old days? Our roommate, the old lady, keeps telling her about them-ad nauseum-I, for one, am very sick of hearing those same stories over and over again.
She's also claimed the TV as her own. She's very immature, even for a kid. She's hopelessly addicted to sitcoms. I want to watch something uplifting and educational, but no! She insists on having her way; and since she always gets to the remote before I do (the old lady hides it, and the kid is always the first to find it), I can do nothing but watch her idiotic shows with her. My brain is turning to mush.
Speaking of mush, her food preferences are abominable. Vegetables? Forget it. She makes such a scene at the super market whenever I approach the produce section that I have no choice but to allow her to drag me down the cookie aisle, the deli counter for the richest cheeses she can find, the take-out department for pepperoni pizza, and the freezer for double fudge ice cream. I try to talk her into settling for sorbet, but she makes a dreadful face and starts screaming. What can I do? If I slap her and pull her away, I'll be arrested for child abuse. Though I'm delighted when she finally agrees to leave the market, I dread the confrontation that I know awaits us at home. The minute we get inside the door, the old lady starts rummaging through the bags for her bran cereal. Believe me, she is not thrilled when all she finds is sugar frosted flakes.
I keep reading about the problems of "the sandwich generation"- those who must care for elderly relatives and children. It's a real challenge. I now know from experience. What I don't know is how it happened to me. Unfortunately, my parents are gone, and I never had children. So how did I fall into the sandwich trap?
It's a puzzle, but I don't have time to figure it out right now. I have to call a locksmith to add a few more deadbolts before anyone else moves in.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.