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  • Be good now,
    she always said.
    And I was.

    Eleven months old when my brother was born,
    colicky, crying most evenings,
    she later told me it was her salvation that I was
    a Good Girl.
    Three years old when my sister was born,
    my brother now two and running everywhere,
    a small house of crying and spills and diapers
    and laundry and a very young husband who
    had no clue yet
    about the strain these things could lay
    upon the heart of a good woman.
    But I saw and I tried, lord I tried to be
    a Good Girl.
    Every effort to help fell short
    because I was, well, only three.
    Three and already inadequate, incapable, ineffective.
    I was old enough to know what needed to be done
    but not old enough to know I couldn't possibly be expected to do it.
    So, way back then I decided she must be lying when she called me
    her Good Girl
    and spent so much time trying to prove her right.

    Eleven years old when he asked me to help.
    I was walking home from school late,
    having stayed after to help the teacher.
    The crossing guard was packing up to go home;
    "I'll carry the lawn chair if you bring the sign" he said,
    then when we got to his house,
    "just bring it in and set it down right here".
    So I did what I thought a Good Girl would do
    and I froze when he did what he did next,
    unsure whether respecting your elders included this.
    I remember the smell of the oil cloth on the kitchen table,
    the sun streaming in the window,
    the clock ticking in the parlor.
    I remember the the confusion, the fear, but worse
    I remember the very bad feeling that now I had somehow failed
    and most definitely, certainly,
    one hundred percent, was never ever ever going to be
    a Good Girl.
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