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16 Candles…

My mother told us she was pregnant over pizza in the living room. I was 16 years old, Jennifer was 13. My mother married the summer before 10th grade, so it was no shock that she would want to start a family with Mike, our stepfather. What was a shock was how the pregnancy and its aftermath would change our lives.

I didn’t know anyone my age with siblings THAT much younger, and it’s still a rarity to find people with such an age gap. Between me and my youngest sister, who’s 13, there are nearly 20 years. During my mother’s pregnancy my mind couldn’t comprehend the changes she was going through. I don’t think children can, to be honest. You just experience them as they come, and hopefully you’ve some degree of compassion so that your mother isn’t always on her swollen feet.

Early in the morning of August 18th, 1995, my mother woke me up. “Jamie, we’re going to the hospital. Get dressed. My water broke. Mike’s getting the Jeep.” I stumbled out of bed: having recently had chest surgery it was still hard for me to get up on my own. The four of us piled into the white Jeep Cherokee and drove to the hospital. I spent most of the next few hours in the delivery room with my mom, Mike and Jennifer. I had no idea what the doctors were doing, I didn’t know what the tubes were. I knew they gave my mom an epidural and it made her shiver a lot. My grandfather arrived at the hospital to keep us company, and soon he took us into a snack area to kill time. We were informed that the baby was coming, so Jennifer and I ran down the hall and sat in chairs outside the delivery room. With a mixture of anxiety and delight we waited outside. There was some mumbling inside I couldn’t understand, and then we heard a baby cry. I remember seeing Jennifer’s face light up as it was pressed against the door so she could hear better. We wanted to go in immediately, but according to what we heard coming from inside they had to “mop up the floor.” Yep. That sounded pleasant. The doors were eventually opened and we walked inside.

There, swaddled in my mother’s arms, was my baby sister Olivia. My mind to this day is still amazed when I see a newborn for the first time. My 16 year-old mind couldn’t comprehend it, and my 32 year-old mind still has difficulty. There, in front of me, was the product of whatever that was that was growing inside my mother. The ripples in my mother’s pregnancy stomach were actually caused by this little girl! They used suction, so she had a cap on so her unicorn bump wouldn’t scare us. Seeing Olivia for the first time is one of my most vivid memories and one that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.

Today, on her 16th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on her life, and thinking of what I want for her future. We’ve shared many laughs, and our memories would not be that entertaining to most of you reading this. Maybe once I have a Lifetime Television made-for-tv movie about my life (in which Meredith Baxter plays my mother, thank you) it will be.

What I will say is this: Olivia. Rat Girl. My original Nugget. You’re 16 today. You’ve a permit. You’ve got braces. You’ve got friends. More importantly, you’ve got family. I know the past few years have been difficult, and they have been for all of us. Being a teenager sucks. I think it sucks for everyone to different degrees. Like I’ve told you before, the ONLY thing I want of you is for you not to be an asshole—just be a good person. There are too many bullies in this world, and life is hard enough. You’re incredibly compassionate and I’ve seen you behave in such beautiful ways towards your friends and family—it’s inspiring. Kids can make fun of each other, but you don’t have to do it back. You’re better than that. Much better. And with your example, given to you by your SPECTACULAR older gay brother (if I do say so myself) along with the rest of your family, you’ve a great path ahead, my dear.

I know that I don’t call you every day, or every week.  Depending on the month we may or may not be friends on Facebook.  I don’t think you follow me on Twitter, and I am okay with that.

Just know that I love you so much I cannot stand it. It actually hurts. Not a day goes by that I am not proud to call you my sister.

Happy birthday.

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