And this was the book where Claudia stopped being cool. She stopped being the girl who bought sequined pink sneakers and made dreamcatcher earrings. The girl who taught me how to make FMWs (Frozen Milky Ways) and who inspired me every time I thought I should have been reading classic literature and not more BSC/trashy YA lit. Instead, she became this baby obsessed little old lady in thirteen year old form.
Claudia's Aunt Peaches (weird nickname, go with it) gives birth to her first child. Claud has always been close to her aunt, and Peaches and Russ (her husband) name the baby Lynn (as in Claudia Lynn Kishi) and ask Claudia to be the godmother. She's eager to help--a little too eager. After they come home from the hospital one Saturday afternoon, Claudia comes over to Peaches and Russ's place to help out every single day after school, lectures Peaches on baby care, breaks their coffee machine, and one Sunday, invites the entire BSC to stop by. Peaches finally gets fed up on Thursday afternoon (this after six days of non stop Claudia) and tells her that she and Russ need alone time. Claud is pissed that Peaches made her feel like a pest and storms out.
That weekend, Claudia goes on a school trip to Philadelphia (along with Abby and Stacey). Another classmate of hers, Melissa, has a girl crush on Claudia (oh come on, every single one of us did, too) and follows Claudia around trying to impress her. At one point, the class is at an art museum and Claud really wants to go to the nearby Rodin Museum but there isn't enough time/interest. Melissa says they can both go, look at the sculptures, and come back before they're missed but they lose track of time and soon it's Home Alone 13: Lost in Philadelphia time. (Credit for that joke goes to Mr. Alan Grey on page 123.) The two girls get in trouble for leaving the group and Claudia yells at Melissa for being a pest but learns a valuable lesson. That she was doing the same thing to Peaches. Except she didn't learn the most important thing: coming between a new mother and her sleep and/or source of caffeine=death. Claudia and Peaches make up, yay! Claudia also makes up with Melissa but they're not actually friends because Melissa doesn't worship at the altar of baby.
Side plot: the Arnold twins watch scary movies on TV. They get scared. Then they learn the secrets of how these movies are made and they decide to make their own video tape using homemade special effects.
- Towards the end of a BSC meeting, Claudia gets a phone call from Russ saying that they're on their way to the hospital to have the baby and they ask her to let her parents know. Claudia starts freaking out and screaming. She goes crazy waiting for her parents and Janine to come home and considers running to the hospital. She worries that the baby will be born before she can get there. Okay, you know, there are medical professionals there--I don't think a thirteen year old who can barely spell the word "the" is going to add anything to the experience.
- So then when they finally rush to the hospital, they wait and wait and wait. Mrs. Kishi says it'll be soon and Claud thinks, "Soon? Soon felt like a thousand years." But then I realized that since Russ calls towards the end of the BSC meeting, so labor probably starts before six. Claudia and her family make it home from the hospital by 10:45, so this all took less than five hours. If there's such a thing as karma, when Claudia has a baby of her own, she'll probably labor for forty hours.
- Claudia has two teachers, Ms. Bernhardt and Ms. Vandela whom they call Dolly 1 and Dolly 2 because they have big hair and lots of make up a la everyone's favorite bosomy white trash country singer. (I'm talking, of course, about Willy Nelson.) I give Ann M. props for finally creating some characters who are teachers (other than El Zitmore, Wes, and Mr. Kingbridge, we didn't really see too much of the faculty at SMS). Showing us just how much imagination Ann has, she borrowed both her characters from celebrities. Well, ONE celebrity. Wow, remember when Paula Danziger wrote an interesting and nuanced teacher character in The Cat Ate My Gym Suit? Turns out all she really had to do was borrow a celebrity and her work was done.
- Claudia thinks Baby Lynn is cute and even cool because her black hair is spiky looking. It's also cool because it's held in place by placenta goo.
- The day that Peaches and Russ bring Lynn home from the hospital, the Kishis host a little welcome back party for them. Claudia realizes at the last minute that she's out of film for her camera so she makes her dad drive her to the store. Her mom suggests that she use her mind's eye, but Claudia insists, "'I will not let my goddaughter down!'" (Someone PLEASE get the Twizzler pull and peel out of her ass.) So they rush to the store and then back. Incidentally Claudia goes through a whole roll of film before Peaches and Russ even reach the front door and she makes sure Janine gets another roll of film of Lynn and Claudia together. One day, Lynn is going to walk into Claudia's room and find a mini shrine in the closet (right next to the shrine to Lil Debbie), with thousands of pictures of herself. It'll make that scene in One-Hour Photo look toned down.
- At the gathering, Claudia says "Once in a while, I let other people hold her. But most of the time I rocked her..." (like a hurricane!) She also talks about how one night she has to stay away from Lynn (no, not because of a restraining order) because she's babysitting at the Prezziosos and she nearly bursts into tears when she puts baby Andrea to bed. Uh, I know she's about seven decades too late for this, but have you checked Claudia's room for the Lindberg baby? Like behind the Laffy Taffys?
- Claudia takes Lynn from Peaches and shows her how to burp her. As she does so, she muses, "'Some babies are "Eeee" babies. Others are more "Aaaa." Funny, I've never seen an "Ohhh" baby.'" Claudia? You're not supposed to start talking like that until you hit thirty-five and your bio clock goes into overdrive and you start sniffing baby hair obsessively and your married friends are too afraid to leave you alone with their kids.
- At one point, Claudia breaks the coffee machine by offering to make coffee. (The water goes in the back, not in with the ground up coffee. Claudia learns this the hard way.) Rather than descend on her like a swarm of locusts ("Wench! You took our caffeine!") Peaches and Russ tell Claudia it's fine and she eventually replaces it.
- When Claudia brings over a new diaper bag for Peaches, she includes some new wipes in case Lynn was allergic to the aloe ones. And she brings soy based formula in case Lynn is lactose intolerant. (How the fuck is it that you didn't know about anorexia or Alzheimer's but know about lactose intolerance?) Peaches tells Claudia that she knows Lynn isn't lactose intolerant--she's been over all this with the pediatrician, so shut your Twinkie hole, Claudia. Actually, I'm surprised Claudia didn't go all La Leche on Peaches, extolling the wonders of milk straight from the source. Then again, maybe the ghostwriter ("what a trip!") just knew better than to mention the word "breast" in a BSC book. Considering how squeaky clean Ann M.'s mind is, I think that underneath their shirts, every single woman in BSC world is like a Barbie doll with plastic nippleless breasts.
- So after SIX DAYS of Claudia either showing up at 7 in the morning or as soon as she gets out of school and imparting (chicken) nuggets of wisdom, Peaches manages to refrain from dragging Claudia out of the house by her tie dyed suspenders, and instead says, "'You don't know everything.'" (Is that the best you can do, really?) Claudia stares open mouthed at Peaches. Claudia Kishi? Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks and BSC Club Member? How could she know less than the mother of said baby who's spent nine months carrying her. Then she reminds herself that Peaches is stressed and instead of shutting her M&M trap and going home to look at her Anne Geddes collection, she follows Peaches into the living room and makes a "helpful suggestion" as Peaches changes Lynn's diaper.
- Fast forward to the trip. Melissa sits down at a table with Claudia, Stacey and Abby (telling her own roommate, Lily, that there's no room--burn!) and then asks Stacey if she's going to eat her roll. "'I love rolls. Just like Claudia. Right, Claud?'" Claudia: "I didn't respond. I was too busy shoveling." (Translation. Claudia: NOM NOM NOM NOM.) Okay, before we start hating on Melissa, I have to point out that I do love a girl who enjoys her carbohydrates. And I have to admit, if I were a thirteen year old girl-crushing on Claudia, I'd be all, "Uh...you like...stuff? I like stuff, too! And, um...dinner rolls...you, uh, like dinner rolls?"
- Claudia's pretty snarky towards Melissa. After their teacher tells all the students to behave well on their trip because they are representatives of Stoneybrook, Claudia, Stacey and Abby all roll their eyes. When Melissa chimes in, Claudia thinks, "Uh-huh. Right." Shut up, Claudia. Only I may snark.
- At the Rodin Museum, Melissa pays for both their admissions. Then later when they try to take the subway, Claudia only has two dollars and change and Melissa says she spent all her money at the museum, and Claud gets pissed. Dude, shut up. She's annoying, but she spent her money on you.
- When Logan sits for the Arnold twins, Marilyn and Carolyn, they end up watching a scary movie. Logan's downstairs working on homework and the girls are upstairs watching the movie and every once in a while, he hears them scream. Every time he goes upstairs to see what they're watching, they flip to another channel so it takes him a while to catch on that they're watching something banned. (The audience loves a slow learner.) At one point, Meathead hears a scream and walks into the room to find the girls watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He says, "'Uh, I guess Lou was getting a little rough in the newsroom?'" In 1996, I want to know what 13 year old boy knew who Lou Grant and Ted Baxter were.
- When Logan finally catches them out, he switches it off but they protest that it takes place in a town like Stoneybrook and that the girl looks like Mary Anne. Way to tempt him--a movie where Mary Anne dies? A world with no Mary Anne--what spineless BSC member will Logan be able to do jedi mind control on next?
- After her misadventure, Claudia loses her appetite and hardly eats at dinner. So later she convinces Stacey and Abby to sneak out of the hotel room so they can has cheeseburger. And they actually don't get caught. For some reason, when I first read this, I was really shocked that they didn't face consequences for the burger incident. Not that I think leaving the hotel to have cheeseburgers is a cardinal sin but because in BSC world, it kind of is. But then I saw that this book was ghostwritten by Peter Lerangis. He's got a bit of a wild streak going so you know he's always pulling fast ones. ("Hey Ann, let's have Dawn and Mary Anne throw a party in the barn but NOT invite the Stoneybrook under eleven contingent." "Picture it: Kristy, Bart. A little tongue, maybe?")
- It also made me think of what happened when I was in seventh grade and the kids a year ahead of me went on the eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. Instead of sneaking off to go to art museums, a bunch of them smuggled vodka and Schnapps in tiny shampoo bottles. Anyway, my school administration was probably wishing they just had to deal with a Claudia situation instead. Sure, it's nerve-wracking but you can put a way better spin on that. What's better: Drunken Kid Falls Off Balcony on Trip to Nation's Capitol; Onlookers Giggle, or Dedicated Art Student Risks Life and Limb to Get to Rodin Museum.
- Want to see the UK version cover? The fact that the world's cutest baby isn't portrayed makes me wonder what the hell Claudia did with Baby Lynn. Seriously, I'd hire her to be a sitter if I were my child were already damaged beyond all hope. Like if I were the mother to Rosemary's baby or Damian or baby Suri. Poor Peaches, having to open the door to that every single day. I wouldn't know whether to start chanting, "The power of Christ compels you!" or to get my child checked for rabies.
In conclusion, I'm not buying this Claudia as baby guru thing. When I was thirteen, my policy on crying babies was shake it like a Polaroid picture. Thank god for Louise Woodward for setting me straight. Oh, hell, I still think that iPhone baby shaker application is funny. Claudia Kishi did go back to being sort of cool when she started becoming the Chloe Sevigny for the seventh grade set (she's bringin' side ponytails back!) but it was never the same as in the old days.
Wish me luck, I get to meet Ann M. this weekend at Book Expo!