I remember being super-excited the day my little brother was born.
I had a real-life baby to play with! I still loved my doll Esmerelda, handed down to me from my big sister Kaine. I loved that doll because I had coveted her for sooooo long, with her beautiful hair, and her gorgeous eyes with REAL LASHES that opened and closed depending on the precarious angle at which I held her head (I spent many a happy hour tilting her head back and forth, amazed at how her eyes opened and closed LIKE A REAL BABY!!).
What made Esmerelda all the more special is that she was a black baby doll- I could legitimately tie her to my back, as I’d seen so many of my aunties do, and claim her as MY child. Not for me the complexities of strapping a white Barbie doll to my back and telling people this was my baby (although I did love my Barbies. Dressing them was a blast. Cutting up bits of my mother’s dresses to add to the Siima Barbie Clothing Line was a joy. The beatings that came after said-slashed-dresses were discovered are for another story. I digress).
No, Esme was REAL, a gorgeous black baby doll. The fact that her hair clearly came from a horse’s rear end was neither here nor there. She was called Esme and she was mine, and she was my Esme.
But then came ‘The Talk’. Mummy and Daddy took me aside and asked me how I would feel if they brought a baby home. I was like, who’s baby? Are we buying one? Borrowing it? No, I was told. What if we had our own baby, here at home? I shrugged. No worries. My sisters were entering that teenage, leave-me-alone-you-infant phase, and my 8 year old self wouldn’t mind another adventurous person to play with.
I watched my mother’s belly grow, watched her bizarre cravings (the woman would chew trays of ice cubes. ICE CUBES! And this is someone who hates anything cold), until she finally walked out the door, stomach well ahead of her, and said she would see us later. I didn’t see her for two days. My sisters and I had a bet on with my dad- he said it would be another girl, we all said it would be a boy. (At this point, I blissfully had no idea where babies came from. As far as I am concerned, my three siblings and I were all immaculate conceptions. The less said about that the better.)
When the call came, I was the one who answered the phone. I’ll never forget it. It was my dad, and all he said was ‘Guess who won the bet?’
I dropped the phone and ran through the house screaming ‘IT’S A BOY!!! IT’S A BOOOOOOOOY!!!!’
Ah me, the confidence of youth.
But I was right. And when my sisters and I were bundled up in the car and taken to the hospital, it was all I could do not to fling myself out of the window with excitement.
We weren’t allowed to see my mum- it had been a difficult birth and she was resting. Nor were we allowed into the nursery- I remember squishing my face up against the window, and my dad pointing out the little bundle in the corner saying ‘That’s your little brother.’ He looked like all the other little bundles, but he was my little brother. He was my little brother and he was mine.
We eventually brought him home, and my sisters and I went through the ritual of arguing over who would change, bottle-feed, burp (I usually drew THAT short straw, due to his Olympian projectile vomiting skills) and generally carry the little bundle around.
I can’t carry my brother around anymore, for obvious reasons. Years have passed, and that little bundle grew into the toddler who was moved into my room when he turned 8 months old and ruined my tranquil lie-ins before school, who in turn grew into a precocious 3 year old who took my place as the baby of the family and who I was so jealous of for the longest time. And now he’s a 6’2 giant with a beard and the appetite of at least 3 people. Not only that, he is one of my best mates and my ultimate partner in crime. My sisters and I are so lucky to have him in our lives and I think it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be who we are without him.