Friday, April 21, 2006

Memories of Becoming a Sibling

When I was only four-years-old, my little brother was born. I was so excited. For at least a year, I had been asking my mother and father to grant my wish of bringing a baby sister into the world. The entire time my mother was pregnant, I prayed fervently for the life and health of my soon-to-be baby sister. Imagine my four-year-old surprise when my father woke me up in the wee hours of the morning to tell me the good news that my baby brother had come safely into the world. What baby brother? I knew we were expecting a baby sister, but no one ever said anything about a baby brother. Not that anyone really knew; for some reason, my parents simply let me assume and go with the notion that the baby would be a girl.

Since it was the early 1970s, children were not allowed into the hospital room, or even on the hospital floor, where the mothers gave birth. The hospital was a tall building at least 20 floors, and my mother was on about the 5th or 6th floor. My father took me to the hospital and we stood down at street level while my mother waved from the window and held the bundle of blue-blanketed baby up for us to see. I told my father to have her throw the baby down so we could hold him and see him, and then he could take him back up to my mother; but he told me my mother wouldn't be able to open the window.

My mother came home about three days later and I was finally able to see my new little brother. He was almost as wonderful as I imagined a baby sister to be. He was small and pink, wrinkled and cute, and he had huge, blue eyes. He seemed to like looking at me and listening to me talk, so I decided that a little brother might just be ok. I asked my mother if we could put a pink dress and bonnet on him, so that I could just pretend he was a little girl for a while, and they agreed. So one evening, when my brother was about four-months-old and barely sitting up, we put one of my old baby dresses on him. It was pink with beautiful white lace and ruffles around the skirt. We even put tights and white shoes, and my best baby bonnet. He looked adorable with his big blue eyes and cute smile, and we all laughed very hard, especially my parents. Somehow, though, to me, he still looked like a boy, even if a boy in a dress. My parents took pictures of my brother in that dress and said words like blackmail when talking about it. I didn't know what they mean, but they were laughing a lot, so I assumed it was something funny. I asked if we could take my brother out for a walk with the dress on, but my mom said no, and after that, we put the dress away.

Two of the things I most wanted to do was to give my baby brother a bottle and to change his diaper. Again, by the time he was a few months old, my mother let me help do these things. I was allowed to sit on the sofa and hold him and give him his bottle. I loved doing this. I loved how he looked up into my eyes so trusting. I imagined that I was a mother sitting there with my own little baby. When I first was allowed to help change my brother's diaper, I was surprised to see that he had different private belongings than I did. I was very curious and inquisitive, so I asked my mother all about it. She gave me the technical names for his parts, but I made up names of my own. Peanut and under-behind were my private boy-part names. They made more sense and were easy to remember. My mom laughed and agreed.

The years went by quickly, and now my baby brother is a balding man who lives 3000 miles away from me. But I will always remember those heart-warming days of welcoming a new sibling into my life - even if he was a boy!

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