"Hit My Baby One More Time!"
Aunt Suzie has always been a passionate gesticulator. This is not normally a problem. Except when she's holding my six-week-old baby daughter, that is.
I'm sitting on the love seat, Aunt Suzie facing me in her recliner. She is chatting away about something that only remotely interests me, probably involving the current health problems of my third cousin twice-removed whom I've never even met. I'm nodding my head periodically, pretending to listen, but really I'm watching her like a hawk.
My baby girl, Starla, is nestled in the crook of my great-aunt's arm and she's being jostled violently every few seconds as Aunt Suzie gestures this way and that, visually articulating some salient point of her story. Starla, for her part, is drowsing happily until Aunt Suzie's story takes on a darker tone – I guess, I'm not listening at all now – because now she's slapping her knee with her hand, the same arm in whose crook my child is reclining. Aunt Suzie's story reaches a crescendo and she slaps her knee with the opposite hand, only she misses wildly and plants her palm squarely on the cheek of my sweet daughter.
Starla awakes with a start, and instantly begins to cry. I can't hide the look of shock and alarm on my face, as I helplessly reach with both arms for my baby girl. But Aunt Suzie is undeterred. She makes a shooing, everything-is-fine motion with her hand and continues her diatribe with increased vigor. Meanwhile, Starla's tears are ebbing, but she looks no less startled and the stinging slap mark on her cheek is reddening by the second.
Like the expert storyteller she fancies herself to be, Aunt Suzie smoothly transitions from recounting the story of third cousin twice-removed Edgar's kidney stones – I think; again, I'm not really listening – to how my Great-Grandma Flossie used to knead dough to make the biscuits by hand. Aunt Suzie demonstrates the time-honored process by kneading her hands together in the air. At that moment, the phone rings and Aunt Suzie's hands errantly unclasp suddenly and her right hand – the previous offender – ricochets back onto Starla's unsuspecting face, this time right in the kisser.
Starla starts weeping again, and I make my move to rescue her. This time, I won't be stopped, but just like that Aunt Suzie stands up quickly and moves toward the home phone, slinging (I may be exaggerating a bit) my darling daughter up onto her shoulder in the process. Starla squeals in displeasure, and now I'm run-walking toward her, determined to snatch her up from the unkind arms of her great-great-aunt, greatness twice-removed.
Aunt Suzie has one of those old-school rotary phones and when she picks up the receiver to answer it, the mouthpiece clocks Starla in the back of her soft little head.
"HEY!" I shout, louder than I knew was possible. Starla's wailing has increased, understandably so. Aunt Suzie, phone in hand, turns to me in surprise.
"I'm on the phone," she mouths quietly.
"HIT MY BABY ONE MORE TIME AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS!" I scream, and there's a scary tone in my voice that frightens even me.
"What are you talking about?" mumbles Aunt Suzie uncertainly.
"Give me back my baby!" Starla seems unmoved by my volume, crying with the same intensity as before I spoke. And I don't wait for Aunt Suzie to relinquish my sweet baby girl. I reclaim her myself, forcibly, as Aunt Suzie looks on in wonder.
I slam the door behind me as I leave, glancing back only to glare once more at my aged relative.
I unlock the van and secure my girl in her car seat, kissing her cheeks relentlessly to soothe her. I'm sitting in the driver's seat, van cranked and already in reverse, when it hits me. I left the diaper bag on Aunt Suzie's love seat.