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A Special Sibling

Story ID:1503
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Oak Park IL USA
Person:Jimmy Julien
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A Special Sibling

By Nancy Julien Kopp

My parents feared my reaction to the news that they were to have a fourth child. I would be sixteen by the time the baby arrived, but rather than being embarrassed, repulsed, or angry, I was elated. Finally, I would have the sister I’d always hoped for. I loved my two younger brothers, but a sister would be special.

My youngest sibling arrived in 1955, but the day is as clear as though it happened last week. A stack of books in my arms, saddle shoes on my feet, and a long circle skirt made me look like every other girl on the school bus. I hopped off in the neighborhood shopping area of our Chicago suburb. A starred display of strawberries in a mom and pop grocery store stopped me as I headed home. These were the first strawberries of the season, and only a few days earlier, my mother expressed a desperate desire for the sweet, juicy fruit. Pregnant women were allowed these yearnings, but not all of them had teen-aged daughters who could fulfill their wishes, even if it meant using lunch money that was to last the week.

I raced home with the precious berries, plump and rosy-red in a small balsa-wood basket. I ran up three flights of stairs to out apartment and entered shouting, “Mom, I found strawberries for you.” I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d brought her a dozen roses.

“You’ll have to eat them yourself,” Mom said. “I’m going to the hospital.” She rubbed the small of her back, and a frown creased her forehead.

After all the months we waited and prepared for this surprise addition to our family, the news she’d announced stunned me. I didn’t know what to do, how to help, or what to say. Books in one hand and strawberries in the other, I listened as my mother calmly instructed me what to feed my two little brothers before I left to baby-sit. The boys would stay alone while I took care of a neighbor child. By this time, Dad arrived home, nervous as a cat facing two growling dogs. He helped Mom down the long three flights of stairs, carrying her small suitcase.

I leaned over the banister. “Call me at Leslie’s house as soon as it happens.” A shiver ran up my spine. My baby sister would soon be a reality. Two brothers were quite enough. This baby would be my longed-for sister. There was no doubt in my mind.

I learned that afternoon how slowly time moves. I kept busy fixing dinner for the three of us and being the bossy older sister. I told the boys, who were eight and twelve years old, they were to come inside when dark fell. It was a time when kids played outside alone, and no one gave it a second thought.

The little girl I took care of that evening was everything I hoped my new sister would be. Leslie was dainty and petite with blonde curls and blue eyes. I waited for the phone to ring while I read books to the three year old child and put her to bed. When the phone finally rang, it startled me, and I jumped up to answer it, my heart beating fast. Much to my disgust, my youngest brother’s voice whined at me. “When’s Dad coming home? Is the baby borned yet?”

Leafing through every magazine I could find, I waited. And I waited some more. When I’d about given up, Dad called. I faced one of the biggest disappointments in my short life when he told me I had a new baby brother. Tears threatened to spill over, and there was a lump in my throat. I’d been so sure I’d have a sister.

A week later, Dad took me with him to pick up Mom and the new baby at the hospital. I climbed in the backseat of the car, and Mom sat in the front on the passenger side. A nurse leaned over to place the blanket-wrapped infant in her arms. Dad told the nurse to give me the baby, but she refused. “It’s hospital policy that we hand the baby to its mother. And no one else.” She set her mouth and tightened her grasp.

My dad was not a big man, but he had a way of taking charge and convincing people with a steely look and a few words.

After a short, heated exchange between Dad and the nurse, she moved a few steps to the left and handed the baby to me, closed the car door with a slam, and marched into the hospital.

The blue blanket felt so soft and warm, as I looked down into Jimmy’s face. His eyes were open, and his tiny hands curled into fists. In that instant, I fell in love with my new baby brother, and I couldn’t wait to get home and show him to anyone willing to look. Maybe being the only girl wouldn’t be so bad. I pulled my brother closer and kissed his brow. So began a fifty-one year ride as big sister and littlest brother.