Thirty-seven years ago today, this evening to be precise, our family got a big surprise. In the days before finding out the gender before birth was a common thing, my Daddy surprised us with the news that we had a new baby brother. Exactly what I’d wished for.
After three girls, my brother completed our family. Not because, as friends would playfully punch Daddy on the shoulder and say, “You finally got yourself a son.” Not because he was what my Mama predicted after having a brunette, black-haired, and blonde–a red-headed baby who would remind her of her sweet grandmother’s red locks. No, he was born with a head full of black hair instead. He completed us because he was her Gem. He was her baby, and he had been long-awaited and prayed for.
I remember Mama calling the house on the very phone that sits on my back porch now. I got to talk to her while Daddy was fixing our supper. She described my new Bubba to me, and as I looked across our small kitchen at my Daddy, I nodded. All the things she said–head full of dark hair, big blue eyes, dark skin–described my Daddy as well. A boy. Our lives were about to change.
In a very good way.
When he first learned to speak, we had a game we’d play with him. I remember that day he first learned it and how we couldn’t wait for Daddy to come home to hear his “routine.”
What does the cow say? Moooooo
What does the dog say? Woof woof
What does the horse say? Neigghhhhhhh
and so on–until we asked him using his nickname he earned by NOT wanting his hair washed EVER…..
What does Buffalo Hair say? nec’ week, nec’ week (as in that’s when he wanted his hair washed)
What does Gem say? I love you
Melted my heart, every single time.
He was my rock finding walking buddy. He’s the one I loved to bring books home to when I worked at the library all through high school–I remember him loving “Billy and Blaze” books. He’s the reason we had the cool AJ Foyt van and race car on a trailer to tow behind. Our Great Aunt got it for him but we all loved playing with it. He was the one ten years behind me in school who was a great student and even greater person. As child number four he was allowed to do things that I was not–like running around barefooted in the middle of winter (Daddy–“he’ll come in when his feet get cold”) and not using a top sheet on his bed because he tossed and turned so much it just wasn’t worth trying to keep it on. He didn’t have to eat the crust on chicken pot pies because of the alleged headaches it gave him *ahem*, and he’s known for being short and succinct with his words–like the time he was supposed to introduce himself at a televised Quiz Bowl competition. He said his name and “Senior” and that was it. We still laugh over that one.
The State of Georgia something or other once had a thing where you sent in a letter nominating your child as an All Star something, and they would send you a Georgia All Star shirt for each one. I don’t remember what Mama said about the rest of us, but Bubba? He was her All Star Fire Ant Agitator. No antbed existed in the yard at Blackberry Flats that didn’t have two or three sticks poking up out of it. All the work of my baby brother.
When I returned home from college and later in life, he delighted, night owl that he is, in keeping me up late, having conversations that were good and fun and meaningful until I was dropping off and talking gibberish. I can still hear his laughter as he’d leave my room–mission accomplished.
He’s the uncle who is the cool one because he taught all the cousins to play “Colored Ribbons.” He sneaks up and attacks when they least expect it, and the children all adore him. When he first became an uncle, he used to bring us food from Nu-Way on Friday afternoons. We’d catch up on life and he learned how to love and play with a baby at the ripe old age of 18. From those days to this past August, filled with soccer games and playing chase and sneak attacks, he is adored by all of the children. And Miss Sophie. She literally moped for a few days after he left from his visit in August. Dogs and children adore him–is there any better testimony to his character?
As a child he taught me about the joy in seeing life from a different point of view. And he’s still doing that. He has taught me about grace and how to handle hard times and we talk about hard things like prayer and where the people we love go after they leave this earth. We also talk about this life as parents and the joy and fun, worry and difficulties that can come with all of that. We share stories and ask each other advice, and we try to lift each other up. And while we may not often talk about it, we walk together in this place of missing the ones who raised us so very much.
Tonight I give thanks for one of the best gifts my parents gave me and the world. My Bubba, our Gem. Poor guy–he had the equivalent of four females raising him. He survived us putting him in the purple baby doll stroller that had springs on it. When we put him in it, it went almost to the ground. When we tried to lift him out, it came up with him, making it almost impossible to extricate him. It took some doing to get him out of there without Mama finding out. He deftly handled being our “go-fer” (go see if we can watch tv for example) by throwing us under the bus when Daddy asked him had we put him up to it. (“Yes, Daddy, they want to watch it. I don’t.”)
He’s a thinker and a world changer with a heart as big as the world. I am doggone tickled that he’s one of mine, and I feel even more fortunate to call him my friend.
Love you, Bubba. Happy Birthday! And as Mama would say, Happy Everyday!