Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dave!

Peering out of tiny eyes
The grubby hands that gripped the rail
Wiped the window clean of frost
As the morning air laid on the latch

A whistle awakened someone there
Next door to the nursery just down the hall
A strange new sound, you never heard before
A strange new sound...that makes girls explore

Tread neat, so small, those little feet
Amid the morn the small heart beats
So much excitement yesterday
That must be rewarded...must be displayed

Large hands lift her through the air
Excited eyes contain her there
The eyes of those she loves and knows
But what's this extra bed just here?
Her puzzled head tips to one side
Amazement swims in those bright green eyes
Glancing down upon this thing
That makes strange sounds...strange sounds that sing

In those silent happy seconds
That surround the sound of this event

A parent smile is made in moments...

They have made for you a friend
And all you ever learned from them
Until you grew much older
Did not compare with when they said

This is your brand new brother...
This is your brand new brother...
This is your brand new brother...

The Greatest Discovery, by Elton John

I was not quite 3½ years old when you were born, but I have that sort of elephant memory thing, so there are details that I remember quite well. We were living in the country, in southwestern Wisconsin, in a drafty old farmhouse: two stories tall, no central heat, no indoor plumbing.

Mom had told me she was going to have a baby, but I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I had other things to think about. I was terribly lonely, always; that is my overwhelming memory of that place. The
fact that I had 5 older siblings was no consolation; there was too much of an age difference for me to be allowed to tag along with any of them. My only, constant companion, E, was usually referred to, sometimes with a chuckle, sometimes with a tsk tsk, depending on who was commenting, as my imaginary friend. Even at 3, I preferred to think of E as my invisible friend, as E was quite real to me. And anyway, E wasn’t a child, but an adult male, whom I chatted up all day as I wandered around the house and yard, exploring, always hoping to find something wonderful and regularly being disappointed in that endeavor, in that place.

Mom never learned to drive, but even if she had, we had just one car, so trips into town were few and far between. Accordingly, Mom sometimes ordered things from the Sears catalogue. I had no idea where babies came from, and at 3, no particular interest in finding out, but it occurred to me, one icy afternoon in late January when a large package from Sears arrived in the mail, that perhaps "the baby" was inside that package! I waited impatiently for Mom to open it, and was incredibly disappointed to see that the big box, so full of promise, held nothing more than a very ordinary, oversized, dark blue and white, speckled enamel roasting pan. As Mom sat in the kitchen, with the roasting pan on her lap, I urged her to put the lid on, and then take it off again, quickly, convinced, if she’d just do that, that "the baby" would magically appear. In late pregnancy, Mom was in no mood to humor me. I managed to try it myself, several times, later that afternoon, only to discover it didn’t work for me either.

Three weeks later, I was quite upset when I woke one morning and found that Mom was gone. Dad said she’d gone to the hospital "to have the baby". In an attempt to amuse me and perhaps distract me from missing her so much, he took me to a neighbor’s farm, where I was allowed to help bottle feed some baby lambs. I still remember the thrill of feeling a baby lamb tugging hard at the bottle I was holding.
After what seemed like forever, but in fact was probably about a week, Mom came home. You were in her arms, but I couldn't see you because you were completely and tidily wrapped up against the winter cold in a soft blue baby blanket. Mom walked through the kitchen and into the living room, where she laid you down in your bed: a big dresser drawer lined with an old quilt. She got you settled there, then she called me to come see you.

I heard you before I saw you: you were making throaty little snuffling sounds. Curious, I knelt on my knees beside the drawer, and bent over the edge to see you up close. My first impression was that you smelled great. Also, you were very pink. You were still swaddled up in that soft blue blanket. The satin edge was cool, and wonderfully smooth to touch, and I felt a wave of envy, running my fingertips lightly over the edge of that lush blanket.

Then I saw that you were looking right at me, staring intently, and I was transfixed. As you studied me with your big baby blues, Mom told me to hold out a finger. She said that you’d grab it if I did. I didn’t believe her, so I pointed a finger and held it in the air in front of you, right above your tightly closed fist, just to prove her wrong. Mom said, "Touch his hand," and I did...to my surprise, your fist flew open. For a moment, your fingers waved dreamily, randomly, like the tentacles on an anemone...but the moment your fingers touched mine, you grabbed on, curling your entire hand tightly around my finger, and holding fast, with a grip like a vice. I laughed out loud, surprised and happy at the magic of that contact, of that moment...

...this is your brand new brother...

Happy Birthday, Dave

7 comments:

Brooke said...

Oh I loved this! You did such a great job narrating in a matured voice yet still capturing the mind of your 3-year-old self. That was a really great story.

Lippy said...

Excellent power of recollection! Isn't it great how our imaginations worked as kids?

Nice tale today :)

Jan said...

You described so well what was going on when your brother was born--Happy Birthday, Dave!

Fran said...

Happy Birthday Dave!

TJ said...

I hope you have a copy of this for Dave. What a wonderful Birthday tribute..."big sis." The pictures are great!!
Good to sse you and your brother.
TJ

Chris said...

That was one of the most well written entries I have read all day and entertaining too!

I'm going to check all my pots downstairs to make sure I don't have any babies down there!

emmapeelDallas said...

LOL! Yeah, I never did find a baby in a pot at my house...