Is This Wednesday’s Child Really Full Of Woe?

I’m the baby of my family, the youngest of three. Perhaps you’ve already gathered as much.

Babies of the family have a certain quality, that intangible something which makes them different. And no, it’s not our tendency to be overly dramatic. It is our ability to adapt and make-do (because we’re often overlooked anyway), and our inclination to “make lemonade” when times get tough (we got good practice making all those hand-me-downs seem like new).

My family would tell you I’m a “classic baby” – drama and all – but for the life of me, I can’t understand why.

I was born on a Wednesday. At least that’s what I’ve been told. The fact is, my family can’t remember exactly which day of the week I celebrated my first birthday. Not only am I the third child – destined to a life envying my older brothers’ memory books bursting at the seams with pictures – I was also born at a very unfortunate time. My dad, a Navy pilot, was on deployment and, according to my grandmother Doris, infamous serial killer Charles Manson had escaped from prison and was sitting on my parents’ back patio, spying on her as she babysat my brothers.

Despite the “baby of the family” in me wanting to claim injustice, given the circumstances, it does seems believable then that Mom can’t remember every detail of my birth, including the day of the week.

The one clear memory my family has of my infancy is that my older brother Van liked to wake up at 5:00 in the morning and carry me down the stairs before Mom woke up. They tell this story with an “isn’t-that-sweet” tone, but I’ve often wondered why it is that they distinctly remember eight-year-old Van taking his newborn sister down the steps without adult supervision. And it is me, not him, who emerges from the story as naughty for waking up too early?

Some time later, their memories improved. For my second-grade school play, I had the envious distinction of playing the part of “a piece of popping popcorn.” Literally, I dressed up like buttered popcorn and “popped” up and down. I thought it was fantastic, and I couldn’t wait for my family to see me. At the last minute, however, one of my brothers – Van or Will, I can’t remember – burned themselves at shop class and wound up at the emergency room.

Over the years, the memories fade in and out. There was the time I washed my first car with an SOS pad, the time I bungee jumped because Van made me, the time I bragged about picking up an iron with my pinkie finger and made my family laugh, the time I sat in my pajamas in the bushes with Will making bird calls and waiting for some thugs to egg our house. But there is one undeniable theme running throughout: Sarah’s life is like a Wednesday’s child.

According to the Mother Goose poem “Tuesday’s Child,” babies born on Wednesday are “full of woe.” I looked up “woe” in Webster’s dictionary, and it means “deep suffering from misfortune, affliction, or grief.” Talk about drama!

Yes, it’s true I was born to a “single” mom whose main focus at the time was convincing Doris that Charles Manson was not spying on her. And, yes, it’s true that by the time I was 22 years old, my dad had been at sea for 11 years. It’s even true that I never starred in another school play after the “popcorn incident,” and that Will has called me “SAY-rah” all my life (and probably many other things as well when I was going through my bratty stage).

But, no, I don’t think my life is full of woe. I like to think it’s full of “whoa!”

By Sarah Smiley