After their required hour of outside play was over, the four children convened in Stacey’s room for a ‘toldie.’ As the eldest, Stacey naturally liked to lead. Full of ideas and always looking for excitement, she decided to turn her sometimes annoying little siblings into cool club members. Basing their club identities on four mystery solvers from their favorite computer game, The Adventurers Club was born.
In the computer game, two of the adventures were boys, and two were girls. But there were three girls in this family, and only one boy. Amelia was the second oldest and had talkative phases, but was mostly a quiet 10 year old. She had been born with trisome 21, commonly called Down Syndrome, caused by the presence of three chromosome copies on the 21st chromosome rather than the regular two. Her genetic condition caused her to learn and develop much more slowly than her siblings, but she was bright, stubborn, and often surprised her listeners with her dry sense of humor. In this case, Stacey, Daniel, and Ruby knew that Amelia would be none the wiser if she were to be the Adventurer personality of a boy. They just changed up his name and all were satisfied.
Each week, the Club Leader kept her siblings in order by calling a meeting, or what she termed a toldie. Whenever Stacey yelled out “Toldie! Toldie!” all the members were supposed to dash to Stacey’s room without being spotted by any non-members, mom and dad in particular.
Secrets on enemy targets were shared, goals discussed, and new adventures planned at every meeting. Pranks were carried out when possible. Although mostly excited, Ruby and Daniel always entered the toldies a bit nervously. Before diving into the fun of it all, an obstacle loomed before them: a vocabulary quiz. It was their duty to memorize 20 new words from the club language each week. If they failed, they faced the disappointment of the Club Leader and whatever fickle punishment she might devise. Most often, the punishment was to go without one of the coveted rewards of preforming well: hanging out in Stacey’s room outside toldie time, hearing one of Stacey’s stories, or best of all, getting to sleep over in Stacey’s room.
Stacey’s room was the best place in the whole house. She had a big stereo on her bookshelf. On those fortunate occasions when Stacey was in a happy mood, she picked out her best cds and threw a dance party. Ruby thought her big sister, although only 12, played the best music in the world. She longed for nights that she would be invited to hear those songs made alive by her sister’s joy and energy.
Relieved at the end of each weekly quiz (the motivated children seldom failed), they brainstormed together to add new words to the Adventures Club purple language notebook.
This particular summer session, Daniel raised a concern, “We need code names for mom and dad so they don’t know when we are talking about them.”
“Good idea!” said Stacey. “How about Grasshopper for Daddy? Haha.”
“Oh, then mom can be Butterfly!” Ruby finished.
“Alright, good. The meeting is over. And don’t forget your new vocabulary list. We can have our next meeting after someone finds out why Grasshopper won’t be home this Friday night.”
“Can you read us one of your stories now, Stacey?”
“Um, which one?”
“A new one!”
“Alright,” she conceded, “but I’m not really done with it. It’s called The Hot Air Balloon and the Naughty Children.”
“Yay!” they all cried, including their quiet sister Amelia, as they dug deeper into a squishy bean bag or curled up under the covers on Stacey’s bed.
To be continued in Story #3…