Robin, Age 7
Princess June 29
by Robin Dawn Hudechek

My birthday was the one day of the year
I felt special. It was the one day I was sure
no one would laugh at my bowlegged walk
cheap Kmart clothes, or the awful haircut
my babysitter gave me when I was nine.
When the photographer took the school photos
he gave other children names like Princess
or Peaches. I was Porcupine.

In those years I hid my stories under my bed:
comic strips with bubbles of dialogue,
wicked witches and fairies. I was ashamed
of these stories about June 29,
a fairy princess named after my birthday.
It didn’t matter that my friends
and cousins all wanted to be birthday princesses.
We fashioned our crowns from tin foil.
Sparkling pinwheels became magic wands;
discarded sheets and beach towels were our gowns.

Barbie dolls became my characters.
The prettiest ones embodied the princesses
we dreamed of becoming, splendid
in their store-bought Cinderella dresses.
Before my parents gave me my first doll,
Malibu Barbie, I stole my sister’s Ken doll
and put a sock on his head for long hair.

We never played house with our Barbies,
and I never touched my sister’s baby dolls.
I didn’t want to be a mother.
Our father left when I was five.
My mother, a nurse, slept on the couch in the afternoons
when she worked the midnight shift at the hospital.
No matter how many times she yelled at me
an hour later I would forget and run outside,
banging the screen door.

The kids at school never let me forget
I was poor or how ugly my special shoes were.
The boys chased me on the playground
and trapped me in the metal rocket ship.
Every day at lunch, a boy punched me in the stomach.
No one seemed to know how to stop it
not even the lunchroom monitor,
an old lady whose hand I clung to for safety.

Every week or so my mother made me
search on my desk and under the bed
for her missing pens. She never believed me
when I denied taking them. We never had
enough paper in the house. I filled every sheet
I could find with comic strip squares.
When the paper was gone, I wrote on the back
of discarded household flyers.

When my brother and his friend stole the bag
of stories under my bed, I flew at them,
leaping onto my brother’s bed, an enraged panther,
hands slashing like claws. They ran,
laughing and waving papers inches from my face.
They had been stealing pages for weeks now
and reading them behind closed doors.
I stopped writing about Princess June 29.
A small part of me understood I didn’t have to wait
all year for one day, my birthday, to feel special.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age seven in East Detroit, Michigan.

Evening in Dana Point Harbor

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robin Dawn Hudechek received her MFA in creative writing, poetry from UCI. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Caliban, Cream City Review, Blue Arc West: An Anthology of California Poets, Cadence Collective, A Poet is a Poet No Matter How Tall: Episode II Attack of the Poets, East Jasmine Review, Hedgerow: a journal of small poems, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, The Camel Saloon, Silver Birch Press, and work forthcoming in Chiron Review. She lives in Laguna Beach, CA with her husband, Manny and two beautiful cats, Ashley and Misty. More of her poetry can be found at robindawnh.wordpress.com.