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The Brother in the Middle. #Imsorry

He was soft now, but he used to be wild.

Back before he moved to this new place, this new family, this new life.  Back when he was just a six year-old, with energy as untamed as his hair and freckles that danced happily across his face; but never touched the stitches in his chin from falling off the back of a bike, and the ones by his lip, for falling off a chair, and ones on his head, where a crazy lady hit him with a broom for sneaking into her yard.

His smile ran wide and mischievous, dashing through the streets of Brooklyn, without boundaries. Because it was home. Because it was safe. Because his parents were in the middle of a divorce and we were barely out of the free-living 70’s.

He had grandparents who’d walk over with a banana and a hug, and a block that watched over him with a smile.

But now he was in the suburbs with two step-brothers who sandwiched him on both ends – one a year older and one, two years younger. His new brothers, just as lost and scared as he, with the infiltration of two new siblings and a new mom in their home, space, lives; tossed him out, instead of taking him in. They were so young. We all were.

At eleven, I was the oldest and the only girl, finding my way in a dark new maze at the worst time in a young girl’s growing life.  Outside, was the jungle filled with mean girls and aggressive boys competing for dominance. Inside, where we  lived, was the lion’s den.

The union was not good from the beginning. The husband and wife struggled in their new marriage. The children struggled in their new family. But the fighting was still there, a constant, familiar background noise, with a stronger male lead.

We four little heads often lined the top of the stairs, listening to the voices below, filled with anger, mistrust and disappointment. It was when we were closest, sharing in the uncertainty, waiting for the end of them, of us. When the voices came too close, we scattered in fear, afraid to be caught snooping, even if they could probably be heard from across the street. We knew, getting caught would bring more anger instead of less.

I did nothing to help my brother or ease his transition, because as difficult as mine, or our new brothers was, his was worse.

From every hand, fingers pointed at him. 

So, he trudged through each day, slowly losing his spark.

This was not his home. Not a safe place.

The houses here were bigger and more spaced apart. The neighborhood kids, not so neighborly.

He gained some weight.

He lost his smile.

They called him Sloth.

He was soft now, but in a few years when he grew older, he would be wild again.

Back when he was wild, in a good way




Like the fingers on my hand, each one is different

“Mommy, look, my hand is almost as big as yours!” Julius exclaimed, placing his little hand against mine.

I studied the smooth, five year-0ld fingers, stretching themselves out, trying desperately to seem bigger. I folded my fingers over, covering his. “You are so big!” I say, looking into his earnest, brown eyes. “How did that happen?”

“I don’t know.” He shrugs, and breaks free from my hold to bounce up and down. A jumble of dark curls bounce with him. “I just growed.”

“You certainly did.” I want to cry, but it’s breakfast time, not crying time. I place a bowl of mixed cereals by his place at the table, but he is still bouncing around me. I actually think the only time he stops moving is when he’s sleeping.

My seven year-old enters. Fair skinned, fair-haired and light-eyed, Michael’s expression is the only dark thing about him. He does not greet the day with a smile. “Hey, baby.” I tip-toe around his moods, but it’s hard with Julius hopping like a bunny at my feet. “Want pancakes?”

“I don’t want anything.”  He scowls at me, but his eyes are so green and his face is so delicate and small, that I have a hard time not just grabbing that face and kissing him, which he would hate. “Okay, let me know when you change your mind.” I sing like Snow White, which is annoying to me, so I’m not surprised when his response is a growl.

I check the clock. Crap. My 10 year-old still isn’t down.  I woke him twice already. Or, at least I thought I woke him. I race the stairs.

“Tyler. Come on, baby! Get up.” He is such a good, deep sleeper that I always just want to leave him be. Of course I don’t, but looking at his relaxed, boyish face snuggled under covers, reminds me of the baby he is, I mean, was. I hug him awake, and he responds with a sleepy grin.

“Mornin’, sunshine.” He really is sunshine. His eyes are gold. His hair is gold. He has always been a golden boy. I try to extract myself gently, but he pouts for more hugging. Finally, against my inner needy mommy, I push him off. “Let’s get moving.” I toss his clothes on top of him. “Don’t forget your socks.” I call as I head back down to the kitchen.

I am greeted by Michael demanding pancakes and Julius circling me like a puppy begging me to play Legos. Tyler slumps in, still sleepy, reaching for another hug.  I give him one, along with a granola bar.

I marvel at each of my sweet babies at the table and my late grandma’s words echo in my ears, “Like the fingers on your hand, each of them different, special, yet part of the same.” These are my children. Whoever they are. Whoever they grow to be. And I will hold their hands until I have to let go.

Different in every way...except in how much I love them.

Different in every way, except in how much I love them.