I stood in the doorway between the kitchen and the living room, bewildered. My grandmother never came to visit in the morning, yet there she was--washing dishes. Where was my mother? Shouldn’t she be pouring my Frosted Flakes into the blue and white Melmac cereal bowl that made me think of robin’s eggs? Shouldn’t she be setting it at my place at the kitchen table facing the picture window that looked out on the river so I could watch the bright red cardinals feeding at the wooden box my father had nailed to the big tree? “Your mother has gone to the hospital to get your little brother,” my grandmother said.
Did I know, before that moment, that I was going to have a little brother? The idea of a new baby, whether known about or not, materialized as an arresting reality. But the fact that my mother found it necessary to “go and get” the baby, as my grandmother had put it, annoyed me. Couldn’t it just be brought, like the milk or the mail or my father’s freshly dry cleaned suits? I wanted my mother. I wanted my Frosted Flakes and the little stack of Oreos that I was allowed to have after breakfast on the couch while watching Romper Room so my mother could take her morning nap.
I was four years old, and I knew how things were supposed to go. If you dug a hole in the ground, you could fall through it all the way to China. If you left a light on while you slept, monsters would not enter the room. People came in sizes like shoes or bottles of milk, and God had fashioned us out of clay baked in an oven, and brought us to life by breathing on us. I was little; my parents were big; and my 12-year-old sister was medium-sized.
It must have been something my grandmother said during that visit. For the first time I understood that one day I would grow up to become a mother, and that my parents, my sister, and my grandmother, and I had all come into this world as babies like the one who would soon be coming to join our family.
On the day my father finally ushered my mother through the kitchen door, in her arms was a small bundle--a tiny baby boy wrapped in a yellow and blue blanket that was as soft as a cloud. He had silky black hair, and when I looked into his face I knew that I would explain to him as soon as possible that he would not have to remain small forever.