The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Am I Really Such a Bad Girl?

“Bad Girl! Your mind is in the gutter!”

I’m standing in my Tiburon backyard in summer shorts without a shirt. I’ve used a black eyebrow pencil to draw hairs all over my chest. It is circus day and I am pretending to be the hairy man.

Ms. Buckley, our short, matronly, gray haired Irish babysitter, grabs my arm and shoves me out of the yard into the bathroom. She hands me a washcloth saying, “Wash yourself and put on a proper shirt!”

What is wrong? We are starting the circus, Cousin Phoebe is wearing the red satin devil costume I made her put on. Brother Brian is putting toilet paper streamers on his bike and getting ready for the parade around the cul-de-sac.

I’m standing in our tiny bathroom with a washcloth in my hand trying to rub off the hair lines, looking at myself in the mirror.

What’s wrong? Did I do something so terrible? Bucky hates me and I don’t know why.

I finish cleaning off and head outside into our backyard. Phoebe’s still wearing the devil costume and Brian zooms around the street with his streamers flying behind him. I stand there, somehow changed by thoughts of unknown evil. My mind is in the gutter. I’m a bad girl. Does it show? Does everyone know I’m full of filth and evil?

I sit down on the end of the curb and watch my brother circle around. Phoebe walks up.

“No circus,” I sullenly declare.

“Why not?” she asks.

“No hairy man,” I say.

“Can you be something else?”

NO! I want to be the lion tamer! I want to be the guy with the whip who makes the tigers jump on stuff and sit. I want to be him, that’s all.

“No! It’s over!” I get up and walk over to my swing set. Things don’t make sense. I was just pretending and now I’m bad and filthy. When did I change? Have I always been bad?

I sit on the swing with my head in my hands. I can see Ms. Buckley in our kitchen, making lunch. She’s a grandma, but she’s not my grandma. I have a grandma who loves me. My grandma calls me “precious Pru” and “sweet child.” Does Grandma know I’m a filthy bad girl? Is she telling me the truth when she tells me she loves me?

I’m just me, without a circus.

I look over at my four-year old brother riding around, happy to have the streamers flying off his bike blowing in the wind. I watch him being himself without filth. He just wants to ride around. I’m the bad one.

I walk over to him. “Get off. The circus is over.”

“No.” He ignores me and keeps riding around and around. “I’m in the circus now!”

He’s making his own circus without me. It was MY idea. That’s not fair!

Phoebe climbs out of the devil costume and places it on the picnic bench nearby. The costume is too small for me. I pick up the red devil mask and squish its nose. I put it back on the table.

Phoebe watches me from the yard. “See that?” I show her the mask. “So?”

She doesn’t like the costume I made her wear. No circus. No devil costume. No bike parade. Maybe I’ll run away.

Instead, I look up into the hills at the broken barbed wire fence and turn to go back into the house to meet my shame.

By Pru Starr


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Heartbreaking. Experiences like that in childhood made me grow up to want to understand and listen to my children better. I hope my children never have to write anything so sad.
Powerful piece....
well-written and very sad...What is it with the evil elderly babysitters? I had one too.
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