What you see here, loyal people, is the most beautiful child who ever lived. Look at the light in those eyes; her angelical, delicate features. Look at the way she is pointing one finger, as if to say “That is the way they went, the creatures in the feathered chariot who came and left me here.” See her sweet pensiveness, how she does yet know what she is doing here, and is perhaps a little frightened, but brave and determined to learn.
She rescued every injured creature, including the smallest of mice, and laughed like sudden sunshine in winter. Once, and I have told this story before (it is true, you can believe me) she was in the second grade and our mother was pregnant for me. Most Exquisite of All Babies heard in her deepest inner ear that our mother was in trouble, and she leapt from her desk and ran all the way home, to discover our kitchen on fire.
As a little girl her favorite film was Cyrano de Bergerac with Jose Ferrer, because merely a helpless child she wore the hat of the hero, with the plume of white feathers declaring loveliness is in our natures, or as Shakespeare would have it, not in our stars but in ourselves. Her eyes were aquamarine and stayed that color, as her hair grew dark, then darker. She wept at every broken blue bird’s egg on the sidewalk. Our mother feared the world might be too much with her, and from this picture you can see:
If you asked Delonda today what happened to that baby, she will sigh and tell you the best answer she can give: the elves wanted Lindy for themselves, so they snuck in in the night and left a changeling in her place. Changelings are tricky things, because the change is impossible to see. One day she loves you more than life itself, and the next moment she is telling you, her baby sister, at the age of five, to march into the den where your parents are watching television, and to shout at the tops of your lungs, “Oh yeah, well you can just go to hell!” After my face had been reattached with glue and staples and arrowheads, she said through her hysterical glee, “God, that was perfect, let me think of something else, and this time really feel it.” She had a poster on her bedroom wall, from Macbeth, I believe: “If I could turn back the seeds of Time, and say which one would grow and which would not: speak then to me who neither beg for fear your favors nor your hate.” I might have that a bit skewed, but you get it. I studied those lines for hours, like a collector at a toy collection who has heard there is a . . . one-in-a-million Toy Thing, and she can’t sleep or eat or hear the chatter of minions around her in the big barn at the State Fair because IT IS HERE, it is somewhere, and as Frankie Laine sang, Calling come to the deep where your sleep is without a dream.
Here’s how she taught me ride a bicycle without training wheels. She put me on it, gave me a shove, walked back into the house and called one of her friends.
If I tried to speak to her she would say, “Whoa! I don’t remember rattling your cage.”
She locked me outside on Halloween night with a rabid bat circling my hair. (In all fairness, it would have lost the fight with my hair, no doubt about it.)
She loved to take my chin and turn me this way and that, and then announce, “You know, you might be a little bit cute if your head weren’t so crooked. And your eyes weren’t crossed. And if you were even slightly smarter than a cantaloupe.”
But this I consider her most glorious moment, the New Melinda, the Changeling whom the fairies loved so much they kept her. Dear Delonda, who believed Happiness Was A Choice, very patiently kept a record on the Mooreland Free Fair hanging calendar of every day Melinda announced she was a bad mood. Mom said, “Do you see here?” And on every day of every month there an X. With a single day left in September, Melinda took a pen and crossed out the last day, too. “No use stopping a good thing,” she said, as she walked away.
And yet her kind, long-suffering husband recently said, with the sort of sigh reserved when all hope is lost, “Don’t even ask what would happen if you and I were drowning and had just one life jacket. It would read ‘Goodbye, Wayne,’ as she tossed it to you.”
Consider it mutual, Adored and Drowning Sister.
p.s. I have considered writing an entire book about her, but when I mentioned it she said, “Haven’t you made enough money off my fat ass?”