claudia & crazy peaches…& i mean that in the pejorative sense

suddenly it is fall again in stoneybrook. the older babysitters are still in the eighth grade, while jessi & mallory are still in sixth grade. no one really mentions the fact that a new school year just started or that several summers, xmases, halloweens, etc, have gone by without anyone aging at all.

claudia is dragging ass getting ready for school on the morning on which the book opens. as mrs. kishi passes off a slice of toast to claudia on her way out the door, she mentions that claudia should come straight home after school because she’ll be receiving a phone call at 4pm. claudia begs for more details & mrs. kishi concedes that it’s her sister, peaches, & she has important news. claudia wants the news NOW but mrs. kishi is the fort knox of secret-keeping. claudia is distracted all day, puzzling over peaches’s big news.

she rushes home & makes a snack of peanut butter graham crackers sprinkled with chocolate chips. i wonder if that’s actually any good? finally peaches calls & her big news is that she’s two months pregnant. this will be her first child. she & her husband, russ, have been married for years, but apparently they were both focusing on their careers, so they postponed getting started on having kids. this will also be claudia’s very first cousin. she is over the moon about it.

she can’t wait to tell the other members of the babysitters club all about the forthcoming baby, but the meeting is really busy so she has to wait until everyone is getting ready to leave. of course, everyone is thrilled. claudia shares the information that stacey is almost as crazy about peaches & russ as claudia herself is. interesting that i don’t think we have ever had a scene of stacey interacting with peaches & russ. i’m not sure we’ve ever even had a scene of claudia interacting with peaches & russ. are these actually new characters being introduced for the first time in this book, or have they been mentioned in passing before?

a few days later, peaches calls again to announce that she has quit her job, & she & russ are moving to stoneybrook. they have purchased a starter home with room for the baby, but they need a place to stay for a month until the house is ready to roll. mrs. kishi of course offers to put them up, & claudia is beyond thrilled that her pregnant aunt is coming to live with the family for a few weeks. she can hardly wait to help peaches design the baby’s room & pick out baby necessities.

can i just interrupt? peaches is only two months pregnant. so she’s already jumping the gun a little bit by announcing her pregnancy to all & sundry. but also…she quit her job? wasn’t it just established like 15 pages ago that she has been waiting to have children in order to “focus on her career”? why? so she could just go quit the very second that she became pregnant? even working women who intend to leave their jobs when they become mothers tend to wait until they are actually a little further along in their pregnancies. peaches explains that her only job now is to “sit around & get fat,” & that she has “always wanted children, & always intended to stay home with the kids when it happened.” that’s cool & everything, i respect her choice. i just don’t really understand how that tallies with the postponement of motherhood & the working so hard for so long to establish a career. book, you do not make any sense.

i’m also confused about how peaches & russ managed to buy a house so quickly. it seems like they manged to find & purchase a house in the two or three days since they discovered that peaches is knocked up. that is not the way real estate actually works. you’d also think that peaches might have let slip something about moving to stoneybrook before actually closing on a house. & what’s up with needing a place to stay? why can’t they stay in their current place until the new house is ready? if it’s a rental…why can’t they stay? if they owned it, really? they couldn’t have put a clause in the closing paperwork entitling them to stay until their new place is ready?

obviously, this is just a very transparent exercise in establishing some plot devices.

because it turns out that having peaches & russ living in the den isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. it may be a new school year & everything, but claudia is already struggling to keep up with her homework, & peaches doesn’t help anything when she convinces claudia to blow off her homework in order to help prepare a fancy gourmet feast for the family, just for fun. peaches also convinces claudia to go on a major shopping spree for baby necessities (really? you’re two months pregnant, peaches; you have time), help choose colors for the nursery, etc etc. she even wakes claudia up one night at 11pm & convinces her to sneak out of the house & go for pizza. when peaches & claudia get home at 1am, everyone in the house is up & panicking because mrs. kishi happened to get up for a glass of water & noticed that claudia was missing. peaches keeps promising to help claudia with her homework to help make up for all the time she’s is spending dragging claudia off to have fun & be kooky, but then she either gets involved in some other activity or doesn’t know anything about the topic claudia is studying.

it all culminates in peaches asking claudia to blow off her homework once again in order to go over wallpaper samples for the baby’s nursery. claudia explains that she has homework & asks to postpone until monday after school. peaches agrees. but then claudia forgets because she is so distracted by all the homework that is piling up. when peaches greets her at the door with her swatch samples, claudia says something about “getting it over with”. peaches snaps & says that claudia doesn’t have to help. claudia tries to explain that she’s just really busy with schoolwork, & peaches is all, “i don’t need help from a bratty, sullen teenager anyway!”

way to go, peaches. you are going to be a GREAT mom. i don’t remember how i felt about the characters the first time i read this book, but now, as an adult, i think peaches comes off as a real ass. i know she’s wild & adventurous & fun & everything, & that’s great, but claudia does have responsibilities, & she really needs the time & energy to put into some of them, like school. i think it’s fucked up that peaches keeps disrespecting claudia’s time & wheedling away until she convinces claudia to make poor decisions. & when claudia finally tries to set some boundaries, peaches calls her a “sullen teenager”? what the fuck? claudia was in no way sullen at any point in this book.

anyway, after this fight, claudia tells mary anne that she’s not sure she wants to keep working on the baby blanket she was planning to knit for the baby. claudia knows that sainted dead mimi (claudia’s grandmother, peaches’s mom) taught mary anne to knit a few years back. so claudia thought it would close the circle to have mary anne teach her to knit so she can make a beautiful blanket for the baby. the knitting has been slow-going–it seems to be the first creative activity that claudia isn’t just naturally gifted at. anyway, mary anne convinces claudia that the blanket is for the baby, with whom claudia has no beef. so she continues.

a few days later, claudia comes home to a dimly-lit house & janine in tears next to the phone. peaches has been rushed to the hospital. something is wrong with the pregnancy. soon after, janine receives the call they had been dreading: peaches had a miscarriage. she’s fine, & the doctor says that there’s no reason to think that she & russ would have trouble conceiving again, but…the baby is gone.

& this is why it’s unwise to start spreading the good news & dropping hundreds of dollars on baby shit when you’re only eight weeks pregnant.

anyway, in a tiresome retread of claudia & mean janine, in which claudia believed that her bickering with janine caused mimi to have a stroke, claudia decides that her fight with peaches caused the miscarriage. as soon as peaches is back home, claudia breaks down into tears & apologizes. peaches apologizes too & explains that the miscarriage had nothing to do with claudia or emotional stress. it was “nature’s way of saying that something isn’t right.” (many first-trimester miscarriages are the result of a catastrophic embryonic abnormality–most before the woman even realizes she is pregnant.) she says she is sad, but she can try again. though she & peaches have agreed to wait a while, because they are just too sad.

shortly thereafter, the movers come & peaches & russ move into their new home. peaches explains that the would-be nursery will be her office instead. the ad agency for which she used to work has agreed to give her some freelance work. happy ending?

the B-plot involves a new client named natalie springer. she’s eight & goes to school with karen brewer. therefore, she has my sympathies. claudia takes the first job with her, & natalie immediately clings to claudia & asks if claudia is her friend. claudia says she is, which ends up being a big mistake, because natalie starts calling her every day & biking over to her house to see if claudia will play with her. claudia thinks it’s kind of cute, but she also starts to weary of having to send natalie home all the time. when stacey sits for natalie, natalie does the same thing. natalie insists that she doesn’t have any friends. she seems to think that kids can only have one friend each & that all the potential friends at school or in her neighborhood have already been claimed.

the babysitters develop a game plan to try to help natalie make some friends. when shannon is sitting, she calls up margo pike & asks her to invite some friends to come over to natalie’s place. kids come by, but natalie alienates them all by being bossy & selfish (very different from how she behaved with the sitters alone). when jessi sits for natalie, she walks her over to her own neighborhood & introduces her to becca & charlotte, who immediately invite her to jump rope with them. it goes pretty well, even though natalie is still occasionally bossy. the next time that claudia sits for natalie, they sit down & make up a list of friendship rules. this is claudia’s way of teaching natalie not to boss her friends around & to apologize if she hurts their feelings. it works & soon natalie is thick as thieves with becca & charlotte, & i am asking why the springers are such god-awful parents that they apparently never realized that their daughter was so friendless & lonely that she probably would have crawled into the abduction van of the first skeeve-o who offered to play hopscotch with her.

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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