This morning my dad told me that my mom was finally coming home from the hospital with my brother that had been inside her. He took me over to Molly’s and then he drove off in the car. I still did not know what was really going on, so it worried me. I had seen a baby before but it just cried a lot. Why did we need to have one of those at our house?
Molly and I had been playing up in her attic bedroom when my dad and Molly’s mom appeared to tell Molly and me that the baby inside my mom had come out and was now my brother. My dad had asked me if I wanted to go and see my new brother at the hospital, but I didn’t say yes or anything else, so I stayed at Molly’s house.
Earlier that day, Molly and I had hidden in the spruce tree and didn’t tell my mom where we were. Mom got upset and said angry words to me. Then her body started hurting because the baby inside her was ready to come out, and dad took her to the hospital, while I went over to Molly’s.
My mom had told me a lot of times about having a baby inside her that would become “part of our family”. It might be a boy like me or a girl like Molly, but mom didn’t know which one until it came out. Where it would come out of her and I did not even dare to ask. What she did know is that she would have to go to the hospital when it was ready to come out. The whole thing made no sense to me or to Molly. I already had Molly so why did we need anyone else.
After it got dark my dad finally had come back to Molly’s house and taken me home, but mom wasn’t there. He said she had to stay at the hospital until she and my brother were ready to come home.
The next morning he asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital with him. I still wasn’t sure what this all meant and how it might affect me, and I did not say anything. So he took me over to Molly’s again.
I was still thinking about all those things that had happened when Molly saw from the window in her room our car pull into the driveway of our house across the street. Molly and I looked out and watched as dad got out of the car and walked around to the other side to open the door for mom. She got out carrying something all wrapped up in a white bundle. I could tell that that thing was what this was all about.
Molly said, “Let’s go see it!”
I looked at her unsure and worried.
She looked at me and figured out what I was thinking.
“You can stay here if you want”, she said, “But I’m going to go see it!”
I said okay, but I did not want her to go. But when she headed out of the room I decided to follow her. I was having trouble thinking of anything except that I felt strange.
When we got down the stairs to the front door, Molly called out to her mom.
“Coob’s mom is home and we want to go see it!”
“Oh my god”, Molly’s mom appeared from the kitchen, climbing up the stairs into the living room, “This is so exciting! Yes, let’s go see Cloob’s little brother!”
She helped us put on our jackets and she put on her coat and opened the door. Molly ran out down toward the street.
“Whoa there Molly Wheeler”, her mom yelled out, “Watch for cars before you cross the street!” I could see Molly jerk her body to a stop on the edge of our street, swing her head to either side, and then run across. Molly’s mom puffed her cheeks and pushed air out of her mouth and shook her head.
“C’mon Cloob”, she said taking my hand, “Let’s meet your brother!”
She and I walked across the street. Molly had already disappeared inside the front door of our house.
When Molly’s mom and I walked in the front door, my mom and dad and Molly were standing around this basket thing with legs that had appeared a few days ago in the living room. All three of them looked at me and smiled, but I was worried.
My mom patted my dad and Molly on their shoulders and came over to me and took my hand, looking down at me as she spoke.
“Cloob”, she made one of her biggest smiles but her eyes looked sad. “I really want to say I’m sorry for yelling at you the other day. I just was so scared that something had happened to you and Molly when you didn’t say anything and you were right there hiding in the spruce tree. I need you to tell me you’re okay when I ask you!”
I nodded my head. The things she said always made sense like that. Her face got less worried.
“But now I want you to meet your brother David.”
She took me over to the basket thing and there was a wrinkled little face with big blue eyes looking up at me. He was unwrapped from his little white blanket and was wearing tiny blue pajamas. His little pink fingers grasped at the air and his legs kicked. His eyes moved around like he was trying to see things and they finally found me. He smiled at me and seemed happy to see me. I could tell in his eyes that he wanted me to like him, so I felt better. The grown ups all seemed happy, and Molly too, so that made me feel better too. I wasn’t sure yet it would be okay, but it was okay so far.
Looking at me and then at Molly’s mom, my dad said, “The doctor said it was an easy delivery, and Liz did well.”
“Jane’s a trooper”, Molly’s mom said. Then she looked down at the baby and she made a funny expression with her mouth. “He’s a beautiful boy!” My dad nodded. Molly looked looked at me like she didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t either.
My mom nodded too, “He is Joan. It still seems like such a miracle. Just like when Cloob was born. It changes your perspective on things.” She let go of my hand and rubbed my shoulder and neck.
“So Cloob sweetie, what do you think?”
Since I started talking she liked to ask me what I was thinking. And if I said something, she liked hearing it. But I didn’t want to tell her I felt worried, but I felt I should say something because everyone else had said something, even Molly.
“He looked at me!” That seemed okay to say.
“He did sweetie, he’s looking at all of us, trying to connect with us”, she said looking down at him and touching his face.
David looked at me again and smiled. I smiled back.
“Can he talk?”
Mom laughed. “No not yet sweetie. Not for a while. He’ll cry and make other noises too. But he’ll be doing a lot of listening and watching like right now.”
“He’s so precious!”, Molly’s mom said. Molly pushed her lips together and made a face.
We all continued to look at him and touch him and say things about him for a while and then mom said she had to feed him. It still all felt strange to me. The kid Danny across the street, who lived in the house next to Molly’s, had a “little brother”, that Danny didn’t talk about much, but when he did, seemed not to like.
“Let me fix up his formula!” It was the first thing dad had said and he seemed glad to say it and do something other than look at the baby. He went into the kitchen.
Molly’s mom said she needed to go home to do things. She put her hand on mom’s shoulder and said, “He’s beautiful Jane. You have a beautiful family. Please let me know anything I can do to help. Any time. Anything you need, just call me, I’m right across the street.”
I thought it was funny that she said that last thing because we all already knew that they lived across the street. It was one of those things grownups did, say things you already knew. Anyway she said that Molly could stay and play with me and that made me happy. Molly’s mom said goodbye to my dad and “congratulations on your growing family”, and told him too she would “Help out any way I can, if you or Jane need me”. Then she asked him if he would make sure Molly looked both ways before crossing the street to come home and then left.
Molly wanted to see how my mom fed the baby, so we went into the kitchen to watch dad make the “formula”. Dad figured out that was why we were there looking at him and started to tell us what he was doing. He was using a “measuring spoon” to take the “powdered formula” out of a box with letters and a picture of a baby on it. He mixed it with the big wooden spoon in a pot with water heated up on the stove, hot enough to “dissolve” the powder, but not too hot or it would burn the baby’s mouth. Molly and I peeked in the pot as he stirred it, and watched the powder disappear and make the water white and look like milk. He carefully dipped his little finger in the pot to “test” if it was hot enough, but not too hot. As soon as his finger tip dipped in the milky liquid we both looked at him.
“Litle bit more”, he said, continuing to stir the pot. “It’s like making cocoa, except the water turns white instead of brown.”
Grown ups were good at using words to explain things, when they wanted to.
Finally the formula was warm enough and dad poured it from the pot over the sink into a clear glass “baby bottle”. I liked those baby bottles because they were thick clear glass with sides and edges. When you held one it was heavy and you could feel those sides and edges. If you looked through it what you saw on the other side was kind of broken up by the edges. Then as you looked through and turned the bottle, different parts of what you saw shifted and were broken up.
Dad then put a “rubber nipple” on top of the bottle. He gave the bottle to Molly and asked her if she wanted to bring it to mom. Molly nodded, and when she took the bottle she slowly and carefully walked back into the living room, holding it in front of her with both hands. I thought it was funny because she usually ran everywhere. I followed her into the living room.
Mom was now sitting in the rocking chair next to the basket thing with the baby in her arms. She took the bottle from Molly and said thank you. She showed us how she dripped some on her arm to test if it was the right “temperature”. Then she put the nipple part between the baby’s lips, and the lips closed on it and the baby started drinking. Mom looked at him while he drank, I could tell her mind was doing lots of thinking.
“So Eric”, she called out to my dad in the kitchen, “Did you talk to the Hutchinson’s about their crib?”
Dad appeared at the kitchen door. “Yes. They said we could have it. It looks like it is in okay shape, may need a little work. Could use a coat of paint too.”
Still feeding the baby she said, “Well we still have half a quart of that oil-based white that we used on this bassinet.”
Dad nodded and smiled. His eyes sparkled. He and mom liked working together on things like that.
Then he frowned, “It doesn’t have a pad or a mattress though.”
Mom frowned too. “Could you get a piece of foam, cut to size, and cover it somehow?”
“Schlenkers has foam and will cut it to size”, he said, “Then we could cover it with one of the flat sheets. I think we have an extra one.”
The baby coughed. Mom pulled the bottle out of his mouth and a bunch of white stuff squirted out and down his cheek. Mom took the cloth from her shoulder and cleaned up his face. She lifted him and held him against her chest with his head over her shoulder and gently patted his back. She smiled at Molly and I.
“David needs to burp I think. It’s been three years since you were born Cloob and I’m still trying to remember all the tricks of the trade!”
I couldn’t remember ever being a baby like David and not being able to do much of anything except look at things and suck on a bottle. David made a noise. Guess that was a burp.
Mom looked away from us at dad. “We’re lucky David is a boy because we have that box of Cloob’s old baby clothes somewhere right?”
Dad frowned and looked up at the ceiling. “I think we gave those to the Drake’s for Henry.” Then back at mom. “He’s over a year now, he may be done with them!”
“Yeah but…”, mom shook her head, “You can’t slap a coat of fresh paint on ratty old clothes. We’re not going to dress him in rags.”
Dad puffed out his cheeks and blew air out. “Well, I could do a couple evenings at the fraternity. Those frat boys’ rooms and laundry are not going to clean themselves! Otherwise I’m going to have to rob a bank Liz!”
She looked back at him very serious. “Eric, how many different jobs do you have?”
He looked up at the ceiling again thinking. “Five… six actually if you count the proofreading.”
“You get paid for it right? That counts!”
“Well”, he scratched his chin, “They give me free books.”
“That counts!” She said, taking the baby off of her chest and back down in her lap. “But at some point it becomes penny wise and pound foolish. If it slows down you getting your dissertation done, it delays you finding a real job that pays and has benefits even.”
“Well”, he said nodding his head, “I told you my committee approved the initial draft of my dissertation!”
They were always talking about his “dissertation”. He had tried to explain it to me that it was something he had to write to get his “PHD” so he could work as a “professor”, but it did not make much sense.
“Eric”, her voice was a little bit angry, “You did not tell me that! That’s a big milestone isn’t it? You need to talk to me about these things. It helps…”, she rolled her hand around in a circle in front of her, “Keep me going.”
“You’re right Liz… sorry!”
Molly finally looked at me and I knew she wanted to do something different.
“Let’s play in the backyard”, I said.
“Let’s play Sky King”, she said.
“Let’s play pirates and Sky King”, I said.
“Okay”, she said, and she ran into the kitchen and out the side door. I got up and followed her. I could hear my parents and Molly’s mom chuckling at us as I left the room following Molly.