In a family of eight children, it is often that one child will blend in. Her childhood stories will become lost, overshadowed by the more interesting stories of her siblings. Through the years, the stories of Alice Astley and her big imagination disappeared. The stories of her siblings’ adventures are the stories remembered. This was not done on purpose. Patrick and Lynn Astley loved each of their children. Alice was not excluded from this. However in a rambunctious house full of children breaking bones, winning awards, and running away; Alice’s stories about having an imaginary friend named Nelson was to be forgotten. Often they would try to remember a childhood story for their daughter and begin to tell a tale of one of her siblings, mistaking it for a story about her. “I’m sorry, dear. You were just such a wonderful daughter,” they would say. Though their words were nice, nice words did not stop her from feeling invisible. By all accounts, the Astley family had a wonderful life. Her parents were very much in love and very deeply loved each of their eight children. They had always wanted a large family and a large house to fill it in. Both Patrick and Lynn came from good families and in the early days of their marriage, received much financial help with their children as Patrick finished medical school. Not wanting their grandchildren to grow up in the city, a nice starter house was bought for them in Fairfield, Connecticut. They stayed in the house for only a few years but have remained in Fairfield for the past forty years with no intention of ever leaving. Fairfield is the town in which Alice, the fifth child, was born. Her parents still live in the house she took her first couple of steps in and their street is the street she learned where to ride her bike. All of those memories are so clear to her. Though they are muddled in her parents’ memory, “I think you were five when you learned to ride a bike?” they said. Alice was a very good child. She was sweet and quiet, even as a little baby. Her oldest brother took to her quite fondly and when she was only a couple days old, took to calling her Allie girl. The nickname Allie stuck, though her brother is the only one still allowed to call her Allie girl. Her family was very close. They took family vacations to Martha’s Vineyard every year and every week had a movie day and a game day. Her parents never snuck kisses but instead would chase each other around the kitchen, trying to steal a kiss from each other. Her mother was a huge Beatles fan and every morning as she did all of her daughters’ hair, a hairbrush would be passed around and each of the girls would take turn singing a line. The children spent most of their time outside, Allie included. Her childhood was one of playing make believe in the backyard, twirling around like a princess, or riding her bike so fast because she was imagining herself being chased from gremlins. Gremlins were the only terror in her life. As she got older, her family remained close but she began to feel invisible to her parents. Her older siblings often acted out and caused her parents stress. She had younger twin brothers who had tantrums every day, throwing whatever they could get their hands on. Her youngest sibling struggled with speaking and bi-weekly, her mother would take her to a speech therapist. Allie watched as each sibling got in and out of trouble and she remained quiet. She wanted to be the good one and not cause any problems. But slowly she saw herself becoming invisible. Her mother would no longer tuck her into bed, instead focusing on everyone else actually being in bed. One day she even forgot to make her lunch, as her mind was not on Allie. She became jealous of her youngest sister because she got to spend time with her parents alone. One day she begged to come along but as all the focus was on her sister, she still felt invisible. She began every day to help her sister, trying to teach her words. When she began speaking more, she thought that for sure her parents would notice her for all the good she did. Instead they called the speech therapist crying, thanking him for helping their daughter. Allie was invisible. High school was uneventful for Allie. She got excellent grades and she sang in the school choir. She was, as always, a good kid. She never acted out. Never did she take a swig of alcohol or take a hit from a joint. She was forever known as one of the Astley girls. She didn’t mind so much, she just wished someone would notice her for something else instead of her large family. At the end of her four years, she was offered a full time scholarship to Pace University and quickly took it. Though she was offered scholarships to schools out of the area, she decided that she liked being somewhat close to her family. Pace was just far enough that she was able to have her independence and begin to make a name for herself outside of her family. College was good for Allie. She loved learning and excelled in her classes. The shell she had lived in began to break as she could finally get out of her siblings’ shadows. She worked every weekend as a shot girl at a local college bar and suddenly she was no longer invisible and she loved it. Her parents would have thought she was crazy to be a shot girl and so she kept it a secret. The secret was exciting to her and it just made her love the job more. It was at the bar that she had her first sip of alcohol, a lemon drop, and where she finally came into her own. Her feisty personality began to shine through and though she remained laid back, she did not stand for any injustice. In the fall of 2007, she met Topher Kobelski through the university. Almost immediately, she became smitten by him. They quickly fell into a serious relationship. Their relationship was stable and comfortable and one Thanksgiving she turned to her sister and said, “this could be it.” Though it wasn’t meant to be “it.” The relationship lasted for over four years but as time went by, Topher began to talk about their “real life” together. The topic of children came up and though she did believe she wanted children at some point, putting a time table on it was too much for her. Somewhere along the way in high school, she had decided she wanted to become a speech therapist and help children, just like the speech therapist had helped her sister. She wanted to be successful, it meant more to her than anything. Being a good speech therapist was what she wanted to focus on for years, not children. Though a fight about the topic was able to be avoided for quite some time, in May of 2012, the fight broke out and they broke up. “I don’t want kids,” she had said and that was the end. After a couple wild nights out and a couple months moping about, Allie threw herself into her work. She had graduated with her masters in 2011 and had begun to grow her reputation as a respectable speech therapist. All she cared about was helping people and when she went home at night that was what she cared about. There were nights where she was lonely; craving the comfort she had had with Topher. However, dating and the single life wasn’t really the life for her. Even when she worked as a shot girl, she continued to shoot down any advances that came away. After months of setting her up a dating profile and never having her use it, some of her friends decided to take Allie out. It had been a year and a half after her break up with Topher and she deserved to actually go out, as she always worked too hard. It was on one of her rare nights out that Allie met a man that would change her life. Waylon Cameron was not her type. Yet after several lemon drops and two too many margaritas, she found herself falling for his advances. Her friends laughed at her as she went home with him, whispering in her ear that this was good for her. She needed a night of fun with someone she didn’t have to see again, they told her. And Allie agreed. Never was she the type to have a one night stand. Maybe she should do something crazy for once in her life. Maybe she could be unpredictable. The next morning, Allie left Waylon’s apartment at the crack of dawn. She didn’t say goodbye, only put her clothes on and left. Never did she think she would have to see him again. But then the test was positive. Never had she wanted to fail a test so much in her life. The girl who had told her ex-boyfriend she didn’t want kids, was pregnant and from a one night stand. It took weeks for her to believe it. They had been safe and used a condom. Yet here she was. She was that slim possibility of getting pregnant while using protection. She told no one about the positive test, thinking it was a fluke. But as her period continued not to come and the more she got morning sickness, the more she believed it. Finally, she got up the courage to go to the doctor to confirm it and then the courage to call Waylon, who she hadn’t spoken to in over a month. She was prepared to do this on her own, she had told him. He didn’t have to be a part of the kid’s life if he didn’t want to be. He could go on with his life if he wanted to. He asked her to marry him and to her surprise, she had said yes.
She did not love Waylon but she married him. All she could think about was how this was the best for their child. A family is what is best for a baby. She could do it on her own, she knew that. But she wasn’t going to get in the way of her child possibly having a family. With a white dress she had in her closet, she married Waylon for her unborn child. The marriage was never really happy. There were good moments perhaps but it wasn’t the fairytale every girl expects it to be. They didn’t love each other. She moved into his apartment and quickly she learned details about his life she didn’t know before. In their two bedroom apartment, there was the two of them and four of his siblings that he took care of and provided for. Her heart melted for the family and her respect for Waylon grew. She helped out as much she could herself, both financially and physically. She began serving at the old bar she used to work at for extra cash, intent on using it to help out when the baby was born. She made dinner for everyone, packed lunches if they wanted her to. As time went on, she began to notice things about Waylon too. Alcohol always seemed to be in the house and he always seem to be consuming it. He was a full blown alcoholic and she began to worry about him being able to take care of a baby. The stress was a lot and there were definitely days where all she wanted was to run away. Most days she wasn’t sure she was ready to be a mom to one, let alone be a caregiver of sorts to four more children, let alone deal with an alcoholic. At eight months, her doctor put her on bed rest due to all the stress. “Go home and just relax,” he said but when she got home, she found another woman in her bed. Allie went home to Connecticut, filing for divorce soon after. In August of 2014, her son was born. Like every mother, she insists it was the best day of her life. Her feelings about becoming a mother were often conflicted but the moment her son was put on her chest, all of those feelings were gone. All she had was love. She counted and kissed all ten toes and ten fingers. She named him Gunnar, after Waylon’s middle name but insisted on giving him the last name Astley. From the moment he was born, all Allie wanted to do was protect her son. The best way to do that was if she raised Gunnar by herself. In a moment she will always appreciate, he let her. In the ten months since Gunnar’s birth, Allie has taken quite well to being a mother. When asked to describe herself, the word she chooses to use is “mom.” She and Gunnar moved back to Brooklyn, living in a two bedroom just the two of them. Though she receives child support, she pays for almost everything herself. She works hard to provide for her son and often works some weekend nights at the old college bar for some extra money to do something nice for Gunnar. Her greatest unhappiness comes from Gunnar not having the family structure she had as a kid. She hopes that she can be enough for him, as she knows that Gunnar will never be invisible to her. She will always remember each and every one of his precious childhood memories.