The Sins of Our Fathers; Chapter Four
Rachel loved to baby the boys. From the day Isaac arrived in their lives, Rachel took on the role of little mother, and Melissa encouraged her in the fine art of homemaking. Rachel learned to mix the formula and warm the bottles. She changed endless diapers, read stories and bounced Isaac on her knee.
By the time Christopher was born, Rachel knew more about caring for a baby than Theresa would ever learn. Rachel was sweet though and never put Theresa down. She never talked badly about their piano teacher and she always treated the boys with the same loving attention.
While Rachel’s interest in Isaac and Christopher grew, Claire pulled further away, sequestering herself in her room to study. Her nose was usually buried in a variety of books as she tried to absorb all she would miss if she didn’t go to college. The library was full of books and Claire wanted to read every one of them.
She couldn’t stand the sour smell of Isaac, and his wailing kept her awake at night. Lying awake in her dark room, she would listen to his incessant fussing. She could hear Rachael cooing and whispering, gently calming him, but often Claire remained awake long after the house was quiet. She grew cranky and irritated with her siblings and her parents. No one in the family seemed to play the proper role, and she didn’t want to get trapped.
She knew she should be helping more, stepping into the role of big sister, but Rachel genuinely seemed to like it. The first months following Isaac’s birth, Melissa appeared exhausted all the time, too tired to do anything but lay on the couch and suckle her infant son. Gradually, as Melissa grew more tired and drawn, she began giving the baby bottles, until Rachael fed him most of the time. Melissa gradually became less and less interested and Rachael stepped in to give her baby brother the love he needed to thrive.
Claire tried to help around the house, but she didn’t want her own future to falter because of a badly timed baby. She kept up her school work, as her top priority. Her guilt caused her to launder load after load of sour smelling, crusty clothes. She scrubbed bottles, planned meals, and helped with everything she could, that didn’t involve a messy baby boy. She tried to help where she could while maintaining her own autonomy.
Claire watched with growing concern as Rachel forwent her own studies to play with the babies, to feed them, and to play clapping games. Claire feared that her sister would never get a real education, but would be relegated to a life of child care and baby raising. Her frustration mounted, but Rachael often ignored her own school work in order to play mommy.
As the babies grew into toddlers, Rachel became their sitter, watching after them, bossing them around, and playing school and house. She seemed exactly in her element, and Melissa seemed thankful for the companion. Claire was irritated with her mother, with her sister and with life in general. She continued to withdraw from the family, hiding in her room as long as possible, studying and working frantically to free herself from the strong gravitational pull of her family’s expectations.
Although Craig had banished the television from the family during that fateful Christmas, he never actually got around to removing it from the house. And strangely, the cable never got cancelled either. Rachel spent time watching TV with the boys when they weren’t playing with their toys or toddling around the backyard.
When Rachael took the boys outside Melissa could be found resting on the couch, a soap opera or game show cluttering the air with a cacophony of noise.
The television came on early, while Claire made breakfast and Rachael entertained the boys. It stayed on as they cleaned the kitchen, and Claire could hear it blaring while she studied in her bedroom. The noise was distracting and irritating and some days she felt tempted to banish the box from the house herself.
She knew, realistically, that the TV offered her mom and sister a respite from the drudgery of their days, but that knowledge didn’t assuage her annoyance. When she studied, she played classical music in her room, trying to minimize the distractions presented by her noisy surroundings.
Claire alienated herself from the family and her mother began to rely more and more on Rachel. Her younger sister was the obedient one, the one anxious to please, never wanting to anger anyone. She was kind in the face of Claire’s angry sarcasm, and she was faithful to Claire’s doubt. Rachael held the family together as it seemed destined to split apart. She was always cheerful and helpful, and ready to jump in at the first sound of her fussy charges. Without Rachael, Claire doubted that Isaac and Christopher would have received adequate care.
Claire worked hard, in spite of the babies, and Rachael and her mother. She studied and read, until, at last, there were no school books left. She had finished “homeschooling.”
She took the GED test at the local community college, and was silently pleased when the proctor of the exam called a week later, to tell Claire that not only had she passed the test, but had scored so well that he wanted her to consider enrolling for the fall semester at Front Range Community College. Although she was young, he said, she could definitely handle the workload. He was sure she would do well. Claire beamed for a while, until the reality of her life settled around her, a suffocating fog of lost hope.
College seemed out of the question, and Claire wondered what her life would come to. Now that she had finished her high school years and began planning for her future, she wondered if maybe it was she who was in the wrong family.
She felt trapped, confused and alone. She couldn’t talk to Rachael. Rachael was deeply immersed in baby culture, and she would have loved some help from her older sister. Claire couldn’t image staying home, stuck to take care of household chores and babies, but she couldn’t begin to figure out how to reach escape velocity and free herself from the deadly pull of her family.
Her parents encouraged her to get a job but they really wanted her to find one within the church, cleaning or working as a full time nursery teacher.
Craig did not feel comfortable having her working in a foreign element, where her coworkers could not be carefully screened, approved, and managed. He wanted his little girl close, where he could control what influences entered her life.
Claire had another plan for her life, and as far as she could tell, it wouldn’t involve church.
To read Chapter Five of The Sins of Our Fathers
To read Chapter Three of The Sins of Our Fathers