Monday, July 09, 2007

It was the perfect suburban childhood.

Three girls, with one little brother to torment as much as possible. A mom who cooked dinner every night – and it tasted good. A dad who could fix ANYTHING. A pool in the backyard. A back deck with a couple of cats to play with. What more could we want? And then they said they were shaking things up a bit. Because, you know, in the mid-Eighties, raising four kids and sending them to Catholic schools on a single income just isn’t exciting enough. So we were told that we’d have a little brother or sister. I don’t think they found out what it was going to be beforehand. I remember my brother praying for a boy. I remember at least one of my sisters being a little grossed out at the thought of my parents having a child “at their age”. I remember almost nothing of what I thought about the whole affair. Knowing me, I had opinions, but I don’t remember consciously thinking about it. Since I was eight, and the only two things my world consisted of in the summer months were the pool and my books, I probably thought it would be something to keep my mom from telling me that I needed to clean my room (leaving me more time to re-read the Little House books for the eighteen-gazillionth time). And then…he was there. I do remember holding him in the hospital. And losing my heart. Maybe it’s not fair to my other brother and sisters – but I only really got to know them as adults, after all. But the baby…I’ve know him his whole life. He wasn’t mine at first. I had no idea what to do with him. But my sisters did. So I watched while they changed his diaper, and fed him, and played with him. And I consciously copied them. After all, if they could do it, I thought that meant I could too. Their ten year advantage meant little to me. Although I’m sure it meant a lot to my mother every time I tried to pick him up and she envisioned me dropping him on the brick fireplace. I remember him curling his fingers in his hair while he fell asleep. Or mine, if he was curled up on my shoulder. I remember the day he started fussing on the living room floor. All three of us sisters moved immediately to “the baby”. And my saintly mother lost patience and demanded that we “LEAVE THE BABY ALONE!” so that he could learn to walk. “I am NOT,” she declared, “carrying him on my hip to his first day of kindergarten!” And then four years later, he really was mine to play with. Every day. The sisters were gone. We moved away. He was “my baby”. Which was all fine and dandy with him…until I yelled that at one of his baseball games. In front of his friends. Who all watched his face turn red. I was informed later that I am NOT – repeat NOT – ever allowed to call him that in public again. Oops. It’s a few years later. He turns 21 today. I think if he’s truly exhausted, he still pulls at his hair when he’s tired. I still call him “my baby” from time to time. And God help us, he can legally do the things I did when I was 21.

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