My brother John was born when I was 9, and I loved being a little mother to him. Back then, being in the South and in the fifties, we called him “John Ralph.” Fortunately, he outgrew that several years ago, though some over-80s still call him that.
By the next summer, my regular duty was to rock my baby brother to sleep. He would sit in my lap facing me, straddling my scrawny body and laying his golden curls on my chest. Mother would check on us occasionally to be sure all was well.
As I rocked, I sang. I always started with “Brahms’ Lullaby,” adding my own new verses as I sang. John Ralph relaxed gently as I sang, “Lullaby and good night, you’re your sister’s delight, you’re our own sweet baby boy, and I love you so much. Go to sleep, baby boy, go to sleep little darling. Go to sleep, baby boy, go to sleep little one.”
At age ten, I’d already started to take on adult responsibilities. And, for that summer at least, I loved it.
Today he is much taller and more educated than I, and I am proud of all he’s accomplished. But he’s still my baby brother, and I am sad that we aren’t together to celebrate his birthday today. I love you, John. Happy birthday!