The Brother Jackpot

posted in: Family | 39

He entered the world as the resolution to a hotly contended bet in a third grade gambling ring.

I was sitting in Sr. Marilyn’s classroom when the school secretary came to the door.

“Kelly, there is a phone call for you in the office.”

A collective gasp, like the opening of a soda can under pressure, filled the room, followed by twitterings of “This is it,” and “It’s happening.” We all knew the call could be coming today, and every time I heard footsteps in the hall I wondered if it would be for me. Now it was. I felt the excited eyes on my back as I headed toward the office. When I returned I would have what they were all looking for: the answer to whether they had placed their bets wisely…and the more subtle yet implied declared victor in the battle of the sexes.

I took my phone call and walked back to the classroom. I tried wearing my best poker face, but I didn’t even really know what poker was. So I very quickly let a smile slip out and announced, “It’s a boy.”

Every eight-year-old male in the room leapt to his feet and cheered in celebration. This officially made the count two baby brothers born to our class that year, so this clearly meant that boys ruled and girls drooled. Though I knew I should have felt like a traitor not helping out my fellow females by bringing them the news of a baby sister, I was secretly really happy. Because I had been hoping for a little brother all along.

I already had a sister, so I didn’t need another girl putting her grubby mitts on my Barbies or wearing matching outfits with me. And there is just something about a baby boy that awakens the mini mother in a third grade girl. Probably because boys are dumb and need the very mature direction of girls who know what they are talking about because they have read almost all the books in The Babysitters Club series.

And boy, did I get just about the cutest little baby brother ever. He lured me in from the get-go with his Butterball turkey physique, then cemented the deal with giant blue eyes and irresistibly fluffy blonde hair. He quickly became a bird-legged little toddler with a Nuki always in his mouth, a cloth diaper draped around his neck as a cape, and snow boots on his feet. Even in the summer.

Diaper cape. Check. Not sure where the boots are. I suspect he was giving his feet a quick breather.
Diaper cape. Check. Not sure where the boots are. I suspect he was giving his feet a quick breather.

Thanks to my brother, I no longer had to play with the annoying kids down the street when I wanted my “boy toys” fix. Because now they were right in my own house. Superheroes, He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, matchbox cars, Ghostbusters, Pogs. And let’s be honest: watching him act out Batman during the old Adam West episodes was hi.lar.i.ous.

I don’t remember fighting with my brother very often. Well, except for all those times he would get mad when my sister and I tried to play with his luscious hair. Or when I would relentlessly call him by the random nickname I gave him: Chili Dog. Or when I would finish any of the food in the pantry. Apparently all the food in the house belonged to him. All the time. But other than that, we got along pretty well. Maybe it was the age difference. Maybe it was because it was easy to want to make the baby of the family happy. Maybe it was because he was so endearing with that sweet smile of his. Maybe it was because you had to love a preteen who was a pretty hard-core Weird Al Yankovic fan. Maybe it was because I felt such pride and excitement watching him play high school volleyball. Or maybe it was because he was always just a good kid. Even during that unfortunate phase when he liked wearing studded dog collars.

My baby brother isn’t a baby anymore. He is, like, an all grown up man kind of person, with Irish good looks from our mom’s side of the family and hard-headed German common sense from our dad’s side. In fact he is so grown up, he is getting married this weekend. He has a house and job and a truck and talks about things like profit shares and distribution and markets and other things I don’t really understand. He is a wonderful uncle and godfather to my kids. But I still catch glimpses of that little boy he once was when I see him do things like play Guitar Hero. I am reminded of his unique taste and style every time my son wears some haphazard concoction of clothing…with snow boots. And of course, my sister and I still mother him. Who else is going to pick out his Christmas presents for our parents? Sigh. Baby brothers.

I am so happy for my brother and his bride-to-be. I wish them all the happiness and love to last them a very long lifetime. And on Saturday, I will feel as proud of him up on the altar as I did watching him take his first steps in our family room, or reciting lines from Goodnight Moon, or surviving the crap thrown at him by grade school bullies, or winning volleyball championships, or graduating from the same university as me. But I might have to call him Chili Dog just once on that day.

All those boys in my third grade class sure did think they had won the bet on that day in 1985. But it is pretty clear to me that the phrase, “It’s a boy,” meant I had won the real jackpot.

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39 Responses

  1. mimikath

    No words…just tears!! Thanks <3

  2. Anne Nestor Blind

    So sweet Kelly. You didn’t fight with him when you were younger because he was usually in a knock down drag out with Michael! I think Michael was happy to get a “boy” cousin until he realized it knocked him off the “only boy in the family” platform. 😉 But I miss those little boys as both begin new chapters in their lives this year… Who would have ever thought they would grow to be such good, kind men!
    Thanks again for putting my memories into great words and yes… making me cry again.

    • Anne Nestor Blind

      And PS. LOVE, LOVE everything about that picture!!!!!!!

      • But man, I just wish he was wearing the BOOTS! I remember my mom and Kevin saw Guy Phillips from Y98 at Lauries Shoes one time, and he made some smart ass remark about Kevin’s diaper cape. He wore that thing everywhere.

      • But really, my and Beth’s bangs are the real stars of that photo.

    • Very true. He had plenty of boy cousins his age to fight with. I was looking through old photos last night. They were pretty stinking adorable.

  3. Fonda Richards

    As always you got me to wipe back a tear. Well done Kelly.

  4. Holy smokes, I love this. It makes me wish I had a little brother. That has to be one of the sweetest tributes I’ve ever read.

  5. LOVE this! AND…..I do have to say I’m rockin that stone wash skirt in the pic along with my kick-ass poodle bangs! So many great memories of our little chili dog. He has grown up to be such a great man and can’t wait to celebrate with our family on Saturday. Even though he has been “bigger” than us for quite some time now he will always and forever be the “baby” brother and I think unfortunately for him he will always have his big sisters to “mother” him along with his own mother! I too remember the day he was born. I got the call while at Mema and Papa’ s and I remember sitting in their bedroom hearing it was a boy, and feeling so excited. I secretly wanted it to be a boy too and while I had some bouts of jealousy initially (yes I will admit) of being dethroned as the baby of the family, those feeling quickly vanished into love for the cutest little blond haired blue eyed boy. I still remember playing matchbox cars with him on the fire place and pretending like the brick were parking spots. I also love that we were able to share our love of volleyball together and what a great memory I have being a coach to him and all his crazy teammates. Thanks Kev for not being too embarrassed to let you big sis coach you and yell and your friends when you were acting up. I did get some pleasure in torturing you with suicides and wall sits, but mostly had such an awesome experience and loved being able to spend more time with you by being your coach. I like to think you got all your volleyball talent from my stellar coaching abilities and talent and well…probably also from grandpa (who I think really was the one that passed down our athletic genes). Okay, well now that this has turned into a longer comment that I had planned I will just say…thanks for all the memories Kelly in this blog and for making me cry (which you tend to do with your writing). I feel very blessed to have the best siblings in the world. Can’t wait for the party this weekend! Love you Chili Dog!! Maybe I can sneak a little rub in on Saturday of that “luscious” hair! 😉

    • You guys and your volleyball. *rolls eyes* Just kidding. I was just jealous. And yes, you know that jean skirt was the bomb.

      Let’s chat this week to try and plan an attack for the hair.

  6. “…….and other things I really don’t understand”……..made me smile. :)

  7. Such a sweet post! I have three daughters and my sister-in-law had a girl as well. Then a couple of years ago came the surprise nephew and while I worried that it sounded sexist I could not help but excitedly tell one and all that we ‘finally’ had a boy! (Am sure my enthusiasm would have been equal if we were swimming in male prodigy and suddenly got the sacred girl). Keep writing!

  8. Aw, how sweet! Congrats and best wishes to your baby brother and his bride! And you certainly gave me a smile with “girls who know what they are talking about because they have read almost all the books in The Babysitters Club series.” Weren’t those just FABULOUS books??? 😉

  9. Kelly, I loved this post! so tender and sweet. :)

  10. Love this. A great tribute. And it sounds like your brother lucked out having you for a big sister. Cute photo, too.

  11. My brother was born the same year as yours so this brings back all sorts of memories! I was 15 at the time and I used to pretend I was a teen mom. This is such a sweet way to honor your baby brother!

    • Thank you! And I was totally laughing at your pretending to be a teen mom, because I am sure I would have done the same thing. In fact, I remember one time when I was in high school I went to pick my brother up from elementary school. One of the teachers thought I was his mom. For some reason, I took that as a compliment.

  12. Love your wonderful story! It reminded me of my own baby brother’s early years. He grew up to become one of my closest friends. Hurray for little brothers everywhere!

  13. Aw, this makes me cry! He may get married but he’ll always be your baby brother! I have one older brother, but only got little sisters to boss around. They’re not as herd able as little brothers I don’t think. This post is a sweet tribute to him!

  14. Congrats to Chili Dog!!!

  15. That is soooo sweet! i love the diaper cape! Thirty eight years later I am CONVINCED that my parents had another baby b/c i kept asking for a little brother.

  16. Of course you have me crying. As I’m reading through your posts from this summer you have me laughing with the last one and crying with this one. This was beautiful and poignant and funny all at the same time. I was eight when my brother was born and my son was eight when my third was born. I too felt all of that protectiveness combined with a little bit of teasing over my brother. And I see my son doing the same with my daughter. There’s something about the youngest, the third child. Especially when the older siblings have more than a few years on them. I hope you got a chance to call him Chili Dog on his wedding day…

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