Today is my brother's 40th birthday. He has grown from my baby brother to my little brother to my younger brother to my brother. He came into our family through adoption.
When I was 8-years-old in early November 1971, my mother took me aside in the living room of our white brick house in Bayside, Queens. She just had put my 4-year-old sister to bed. Mommy's eyes were filled with tears, and she had this weird, goofy look on her face.
"I have some wonderful news! You're going to have a baby brother!"
My sister came to our family at nearly 7-months-old. I adored her, and was thrilled to have a sibling. She was shy at first and had a fear of tall men. I was very protective of her. When she became a toddler, the fun really began. She was mischievous and would stand at the front screen door waiting for our friend and neighbor Dick to arrive home from work. She would yell out, "Hi Bill!" She knew full well that this was Dick, and not our other friend, and Dick's brother-in-law, Bill. When she saw Bill, who lived up one block, she would greet him with, "Hi Dick!" My sister is, was and always will be an artist. When she had her first set of Crayolas, she decided to turn the hallway wall outside the bathroom into her own mural. Her drawings were so pretty, I thought, but Mommy would be very annoyed, and spend a great deal of time scrubbing them off the wall with toothpaste and a brush. . I was the first, and had to share my space, although never my family's love, with her.
By the age of 4, she was my constant shadow. I loved to read, but she would interrupt and want me to play Barbies. I thank her for my power of concentration, and can read anywhere, no matter what is going on around me. We shared the pink bedroom on the first floor. In September 1971 my mother realized I needed my own room, and moved me to the finished upstairs room. I was in heaven! I had a view of our parish church across the street, and there was so much light. The privacy was intoxicating. However, my sister would still find her way upstairs to hound me and charm me into playing another game of Candyland.
"Not another one!" was my response to my mother's announcement. The responsibilities of being "a big sister" were weighing on me.
On November 10, 1971 my entire family was dressed up, and we drove to The Angel Guardian Home in Brooklyn. While my parents went in to a big formal office, I sat on the bench outside with my sister, gripping her hand, out of fear and excitement, and to ensure that she did not wander off anywhere. We knew this was an important and solemn occasion by Mommy and Daddy's demeanor and mood. My parents came out of the office, and each wore an incredible smile. A few minutes later a lady came to us in the anteroom. She was holding a beautiful blond-haired blue eyed baby boy. She placed him in my mother's arms, and she exuded joy. My father stood next to her, patting the baby gently, and spoke to him in a soothing, gentle voice. He was exultant too, but humbled by this baby. The lady mentioned that the baby had turned one that day (something which the officials in the office already told my parents, and they also told my parents a few bits and pieces of background information about the baby boy, but not much.)
Mommy and Daddy turned to my sister and me, and said, "Meet your new brother!" Wow. This really was happening. We went out to our family car, a Barracuda, and (this being pre-car seat days) my mother held the baby in her arms while my father drove to the local PX at Fort Hamilton. The baby needed a high chair. The three of us—no, the four of us—waited in the car for what seemed forever until Daddy came back, looking like the mighty hunter who had bagged big game.
When we arrived home, friends and neighbors began to come over to meet the new addition. The baby was shy, and clung to my mother. Then, when she put him on the living room carpet, he did the strangest thing. He began to crawl around and around in circles so fast that he looked like he was spinning! We all laughed, and the baby gave us this huge smile. When guests had left, Mommy took out a cake, lit one candle and we four sang "Happy Birthday" to my brother. He was giggling as he sat in the high chair, grabbing pieces of cake. He grabbed small pieces of cake so tightly with his hands that chocolate cake squished through his knuckles. He was happy. He was home. He was my brother. I loved him, and I always will.