Growing up I was anything but a tragic figure. I was adored by my parents, “Oh Christinee, you have the most beautifully shaped big potty in the world!”

Teachers loved me, “Christine is a pleasure to have in class. If I weren’t a nun, I’d want a daughter exactly like this precious angel,” read one report card comment from Sister Benita, my fourth grade teacher known for her uncanny ability to pinch and twist without leaving a mark.

My friends fought for Christine exclusivity rights. I remember a very painful experience, when out of sheer obsession with me, two girls, both of whom I didn’t care for, almost split me apart. Michelle had a year on Jennifer, bigger hands, thus a tighter grip and therefore defeated the latter. But the red head, as red heads tend to be, was relentless in trying to win me over thereafter.

Indeed, this was the price one had to pay for being a veritable people pleaser—not a term generally thrown around by third graders, save for one particularly precocious girl. Sherry Miller, with her plump belly and lips to match – in perhaps one of my life’s most defining moments – nailed my problem and irreversibly stigmatized me.

So a few days following the Solomonic feud, Jennifer’s mom called mine to arrange a powwow. This sort of thing wasn’t new; just a few months earlier another girl’s father summoned the parents of the block over to his garage to discuss the spate of piggy back rides being given and the usage of the term “humping” when referring to the ride.

Naturally, my mom was “peeved” by the insistence of Mrs. Burton to meet. She used that word a lot when referring to the neighborhood parents with their loose morals, and the way they cussed and let their kids watch Porky's or Creepshow. I never liked the way it sounded—peeved—though I thoroughly understood that feeling of extreme irritation usually caused by others.

The entire Burton Klan, from the mysterious baby sister Amy, whose “accidental” bite once broke the skin of my forearm, to the diabolical older brother Brad, with his raggedy Andy freckles, tales of Bloody Mary, and talent for turning his eyelids inside-out, came trudging over to the Palau house just before dinner on a school night, of all times.

“What could they possibly want from us now?” My mom was and still is a stickler for privacy. She never got the way neighbors stuck their noses into her business and how they were always trying to drag her and my dad into theirs.

The doorbell rang. Joey, my younger brother by two years, and I got nervous the way we did anytime we heard the ominous dingdong. We were always afraid that someone would be coaxing us to play outside. The world was a scary place and we tried our best to keep a distance. We knew the Burtons were coming, but still, defenselessly embraced like an attack was imminent, we shuddered in fear.

Mr. and Mrs. Burton reminded me of a less glamorous version of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. They were the “all American parents” in the most unenviable way. And there they stood, at our front door, waiting to be invited in.

With Dad as her back up, Mom wasn’t going to let them enter her lair. But she did call me over. I was surprised; I thought she was tougher than that. She was usually able to shoo off even the brassiest door-to-door salesman. So why now was she willing to give me up without a fight?

Feeling betrayed by the woman who bore me, I tentatively approached the threshold with a sheepish smile. Jennifer made her way to the front of her family, and handed me a box. In it was one of those ugly dolls hyped by the media as the “it gift” of the holiday season. Mrs. Burton proceeded to proudly interject that she actually punched out another woman to get this Cabbage Patch Kid, the one with red hair, no less, to forever remind me of my one and only best friend. The presentation of the gift was uncomfortably ceremonial. I wanted to throw up. Instead, I cried.

I was nine years old then and I cried not because I appreciated that I was a well sought after commodity, and definitely not because I was presented a well sought after commodity, I cried because I realized for the first time I generally didn’t like people, but more disturbingly, they liked me, and perhaps even more disturbing is that I made them like me.

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