My real live name is Persephone Hannah Eileen Riley, but everyone calls me Wonder. Before I was born my great Aunt Sally Jehosophat always wondered things about me. Like would I be a girl or boy? Did the doctor get my due date right? And would I resemble her?
Obviously I was, I am, a girl. The nurse midwife named Winnie did indeed predict my born-on date correctly. And yes, I do in fact favor Aunt Sally J. For better, I see the world through her Kentucky bluegrass eyes. For worse, I inherited her clementine-colored, pillow stuffing hair.
Rumor has it Aunt Sally held me before noon on the day I chose the world over my mother. Pippa, she’s my mom, said Sally rubbed some of my redhead fluff between her fingers and declared, “Will you look at that? Spitting image of moi. Surely she’s a wonder.”
That afternoon, Pippa and Nipper, he’s my dad, considered naming me Wonder, or even Sally Jehosophat Junior (“Come in for supper, Sally JJ. That’s sounds pretty snazzy, don’t you think?” Nipper asked Pip.), but Grandmere Persephone (Hanna Eileen) swore she’d slice and dice them out of her will. Pip and Nip always said they didn’t give a lick about material wealth but I think my three part name indicates otherwise.
Only one person besides Grandmere has ever called me Persephone Hannah Eileen. To everyone else I have always been a Wonder.
As I mentioned previously, Pippa and Nipper are my folks. I hesitate to call them parents because in my opinion, I did most of my own raising. They adhere to Andrew Xavier Phillips’s theories on the independent child. “As soon as said offspring can accomplish reasonable self-care (ie. bathroom and feeding functions), increase their levels of solitude and responsibility. This will ensure independence.” It most certainly did guarantee freedom—my parents’ as well as mine.
And so at the age of five I was allowed to walk to the park down the street all by myself. In my pocket I carried a bulb syringe chock full of cayenne pepper. I believed it to be an adequate self-defense mechanism. I drew the outline of a hoodlum on the slicky slide with a fuschia Sharpie. Pointed at the frownie face.
"Ready. Aim. Fire.” After which I squeezed the teal blue bubble with all my might. Had to stand on my tippy toes to make it reach the bad guy’s eyes. “That’ll blind him. Probably. Hopefully. Stupid, meany whack, jerk face.”
On the back of my navy hooded jacket, I’d utilized a piece of pale pink sidewalk chalk to emblazon a warning—This child is armed and dangerous. Don’t know if word of my bulbous weapon leaked out or if people feared the headline on my shoulders. Either way, no one ever laid a hand on me.
On my tenth birthday, Nip and Pip presented me with a neon green cell phone and a checkbook.
“Make us proud, Wonder,” Nipper said as he clapped me on the scapula (That’s your shoulder blade, in case you didn’t know.).
The first text I ever transmitted to Nipper and Pippa said, “At Granny Cat’s. Over and out.”
Two hours later, my phone started singing and dancing somewhere in the dark. I patted around until I found it on the nightstand. Slid it open and squinted at the screen.
I translated Nipper’s response as present and future tense permission and never slept at 4898 Coburn Avenue again.