By: Helaina Hefner
At 5-years-old I thought I had the world figured out. I knew that pink Starbursts were better than red, that “Tom and Jerry” was superior to any other cartoon and that being an only child was better than anything else.
Because I was born to two parents in their early 20s, there was never a question about whether they would have another child I was all they could handle at that point in their lives. But by the time I was close to my third birthday, that story had changed.
At 3 my now single mom had recently met soon-to-be husband number two. Lucky me.
At some point in my fifth year of life, I decided being an only child was getting boring…I mean you can only play Barbies and dress up by yourself for so long.
I was now on a mission for a sibling. Specifically for a little brother.
After our weekly dinner sitting on the patio of Patrizios, where they always made my Shirley Temple just right, I asked my mom for a penny to throw into the fountain tucked in the corner of the restaurant.
I took the penny in my small hands and walked eagerly toward the fountain as waiters barely sidestepped me. The fountain was nothing special, a small figurine placed in the middle with water surrounding its delicate body. I had made hundreds of wishes before, but this one was by far the most important.
Looking at the penny and then down at the murky water, I squeezed my eyes so tight all other senses faded. Before I gave it another thought I threw the penny into the water while repeating to myself;
“I wish for a little brother, I wish for a little brother, PLEASE.”
I skipped back to the table where my parents sipped their glasses of wine leisurely and asked what I had wished for.
“A baby brother,” I said plainly as if they should have known.
In between sips of wine, they exchanged rather bemused looks, trying to decide if I was being serious.
Three weeks before my sixth birthday a blue-eyed curly blonde boy was born. I wasn’t allowed in the delivery room but I paraded myself around the hospital donning a huge grin and a pink, “I’m a big sister,” sticker with a teddy bear on it that the nurse had given me.
Once home, I quickly realized that being a big sister was a lot of work. I no longer was the priority and I didn’t even get to play with him because he was always crying about one thing or another, which seems like a typical baby, but was just the beginning for my family.
Tucking me into bed one night my mom could tell I was feeling neglected. I was now about nine and my brother three. Pulling the covers up to my chin she leaned down and whispered,
“You will always be my first baby and you will always be loved.”
The words danced in my mind and tugged at my heart. She was right I had been feeling left out, my brother needed a lot of attention between his various speech and sensory therapy sessions and not the mention incessant tantrums that took away from me. I was jealous. I couldn’t understand why he needed all the attention.
At 10-years-old I thought I had the world figured out. I knew that math would never be my friend, that purple was better than blue and despite getting my penny-fountain wish- knew that having a little brother was not what I thought it would be.
Sure I now had someone to play with, but our ideas of playing were drastically different. I now felt more alone than I had being an only child.
As time passed, husband number two changed to ex-husband and my baby brother started to grow on me.
For a long time it was hard for me to understand why my brother needed so much extra time and care. It wasn’t until I was older that I learned of his severe sensory and processing disorder that made loud noises unbearable and itchy shirts a nightmare.
The wish I had wanted so badly to come true changed my life, I was blessed with constant, unwavering love. Our friendship didn’t come easy and it’s still not perfect but over the years my little brother became the person I looked up to most in my life.
When most people seemed to slip away over time, he never left my side.
I often found myself, and still do, coming to him in times of need. He might be younger but his old soul brings me comfort.
Throughout growing up I hadn’t stopped to realize that the little boy with blue eyes and curly blonde hair born just three weeks before my sixth birthday had been teaching me what unconditional love was. Teaching me patience, kindness and acceptance.
At 20-years old I don’t have the world figured out. But I know that tea is better than coffee, that nights are better than mornings and I especially know how lucky I am to have a baby brother.