I was not always the sweet little girl that my father thought that I was or wanted me to be. He was always busy doing the single parent thing, so we kids were home alone a little more than might have been good. We would get home from school about 3:00pm and he would pull in an hour or two later. If there was an emergency, there was always someone home next door, so we weren’t exactly the typical latch-key kids.
Sometimes we would play in the yard. Kicking the soccer ball was one of our favorites. Digging and playing with toy cars and trucks on roads we created was another. Sometimes though, when the sun was too hot or a steady drizzle drowned out fun outside, we would be in the living room watching cartoons. We all liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, but I was the only one that ever wanted to watch Rugrats. I loved it. My brothers hated it.
Since they were older, bigger, and stronger, plus there were two of them and only one of me, I would only get my way if they were outside or in their room.
One Friday afternoon, we were all hot and sweaty from our twenty-minute walk home from Washington Carver Elementary School. Duke, my oldest brother, unlocked the door and let us in. There was strawberry Kool-Aid in the fridge along with apples and bananas in a bowl on the table.
After our snack, we plopped down on the couch and turned on the TV. We had missed the first few minutes of Ninja Turtles, but it wasn’t hard, even for my first-grade mind, to figure out what Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael were doing. Of course, they foiled whatever evil plan Shredder had up his foul sleeve and they ended up, like always, happily ever after--at least until the next episode.
The same was pretty much true for the Power Rangers. One thing that I never understood, at least while I was little, was why their mouths didn’t move with their words. I let that curiosity pass and enjoyed the tension of the show.
The real-life tension started at the end, during commercials for McDonald’s and Capt’n Crunch. I got up to change the channel to Rugrats without asking Duke or Jimmy. Jimmy asked me what I was doing. I didn’t know what to say. Duke told me to sit down and leave the TV alone.
I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t want to make them mad, so I just sat down and at the end of the couch and turned away and buried my face in my hands. I didn’t start to cry, but I wanted to. We watched their shows all the time. Never mine. And in my six-year-old mind, it wasn’t right. I should get to watch my shows too—when I wanted to and they should just put up with it.
At that time, I heard the car in the drive, and a great idea, maybe a little naughty, popped into my head. Dad came in and greeted us, then headed to his room to change. When I heard the door close I said, “Ow!” Then added, “Leave me alone!” My brothers looked at me like I was acting weirder than usual.
After a few minutes, I shouted, “Leave me alone! Stop hitting me!”
That was all it took. My dad yanked open the door and stomped down the hallway. “Leave your sister alone!” he shouted at the boys. They looked at each other, then at him.
“Dad,” Jimmy pleaded, “We didn’t do anything.”
“Yeah, Dad,” Duke added.”
“I bet. Nothing. Right?” He looked over at me and asked, “What happened?”
I glanced at my brothers, then at dad. “They changed the channel on me. I wanted to watch Rugrats, and they changed it and said they would hit me if I didn’t watch what they wanted.”
“But dad,” Duke said, we never did that. She’s lying.”
He looked at me. “Are you?”
I looked down and shook my head from side to side.
He looked at them then at me. “She’s your little sister,” he said, turning back to the pair. “You need to take care of her and protect her, not pick on her.” He turned toward me and told me to change the channel, which I did.
My brothers couldn’t believe what happened. They looked at each other, and even though it was roasting outside, they got their ball gloves and went to play catch.
I enjoyed watching the Rugrats but not as much as I thought I would. It wasn’t until I was riding home from high school with my dad that I finally confessed. He looked at me and shook his head. He never commented or brought it up again, but I thought that I noticed a sly smile on his face as we pulled into the drive.