Baby Brother, I can't believe it's been 18 years since you burst forth and changed our family dynamic forever. Once our parents were outnumbered, we had the run of the house. We couldn't have broken their spirits without you.
I thought 12 was too old to become a big sister again. As soon as Mom announced she was pregnant I heard a new phrase being murmured, then spoken, then gleefully shouted among her friends: "Built-In Babysitter!" they cried, and patted me on the back in that way that says, "good luck...sucker."
"Shit," I thought, "this is the end." I wasn't a very popular kid in junior high; if I wasn't around after school to pretend I liked cigarettes and the urchins who smoked them, I might fade into the social scenery and never be noticed again.
But then you were born and 7th grade politics ceased to matter. There was no one else I'd rather be with, after school or any time. You were my responsibility, my protege, my little bundle of joy. Nobody loved you more than I did.
I was the one who scolded the moyel at your bris for putting on your diaper wrong. I cheered your first steps while Mom was on the phone upstairs. Together we played fireman, hunted tadpoles and watched Sesame Street when I came home from school. Almost every night I rocked you to sleep singing showtunes. Eventually you learned to ask for your favorites; "Sing Les Miz" was one the first phrases you spoke. (No, that doesn't make you gay.) And when you really started talking -- you were no older than two -- I taught you filthy Andrew Dice Clay nursery rhymes that you loved to parrot back at dinnertime. You didn't know what they meant, only that repeating them made our parents shake their fingers at Matthew and me. Even then you were a ham -- a tiny, wicked, brilliant ham.
And such a looker! People would stop our mother in the grocery store to marvel at your cornsilk hair, enormous blue eyes and button nose. "No way this child could be Jewish," friends would say. "Yeah," Mom replied for the umpteenth time, "we've started to call him Sven."
I loved the time in Kindergarten carpool when Mrs. Rubin asked if you'd like some music for the ride and you requested Dvorak. We may not have been too disciplined, but nobody could say we weren't cultured.
Okay, okay, I'll stop now. Just know that I've always liked you best. I know it's not right, but it's true. Don't tell Matt or Stephie.
Happy birthday, Baby Brother. You know how much I love you: Up to the sky.