I didn’t ever think I was going to be big. It never occurred to me that I was little either if the truth be told, but I was just a tot. Some things are inevitable and it is often easy to see a thing coming long before it happens. Well it is for some people, big people, grown-ups. But I was just a little boy and I had no way of knowing what might lie ahead.
The third earliest memory I have, the third earliest full memory is from when I was five years old. I know I was five because that was the year my little sister was born, just before my fifth birthday. That was when it all started and I couldn’t have known what was waiting for me. I was still very much a baby. I was the baby, my Mam’s baby. But then she came along and everything changed.
I don’t actually remember her being born but I do remember my fifth birthday. I can’t say anything bad happened because nothing happened. My mother was kept in hospital, I have no idea why but I know that in her absence, my father somehow forgot my birthday. To this day I don’t recall what I wanted for my birthday. I doubt if it was much, but to not even have my special day acknowledged was so terrible it stuck with me. But of course there are worse things that can happen to a little boy than to have his birthday forgotten.
Maybe it is the same for everyone, I don’t really know because I’m not everyone I’m just me. When I look back at that time now the big feeling I get is sadness and while there were still some good moments that shine through, there were just not enough. One of those good moments was meeting my sister Lo-Lo for the first time. She came home some days after my missed birthday and while I’m sure my Mam would have tried to make up for that lost day, for whatever reason that memory is lost to me. I do remember Lo-Lo though. My Dad insisted she be called Lorraine I have no idea why but I called her Lo-Lo and it stuck.
She was tiny, even littler than me and she held my finger tight so I liked her. Everyone liked Lo-Lo even our dog Rex and he hated everyone except us. Rex guarded her like she was the most precious bone he could ever imagine, even though as she grew, she pulled his tail and poked his face. I knew he loved her because I did too, despite the fact that she stole my birthday and took my place as the baby of the family. I loved being the baby.
“Mammy, am I still your baby?” I enquired one day while she changed Lo-Lo’s nappy.
“Of course you are darling. You’ll always be my baby.” She thought that would be the end to it but I was five.
“But Lo-Lo’s the baby now? She’s a baby. I’m a big boy.”
It was half question, half declaration and I wasn’t even sure if I really wanted an answer either way. I sort of wanted to be both, maybe a baby in private and a big boy to the world. My mother was efficient and focused in everything she did and without taking her eyes from the task of nappy changing, she simply replied,
“Lo-Lo’s my baby girl and you’re my baby boy.” But then she finished, swept lo-Lo up into her arms and kissed her, before lying her down in her basket and finally, she grabbed my little face in her warm hands and said, “You’ll always be my baby boy,” and then she kissed me too and that was that. Only it wasn’t.
Something had changed between us and I couldn’t quite figure it out. How was I to know? Despite my mother’s protestations to the contrary I was a big boy now, even though I was still a baby. Babies get special attention. They get special care. Babies get protected. Big boy’s discover that they have to fend for themselves and I was about to find that out.
Strangely, I can’t say I ever blamed or resented my sister, but she is certainly at the heart of what happened. I just loved her. I loved everyone and everything. My Mam had given me just the right amount of love and enough confidence, to feel like nothing could knock me down. But that was when I was the baby. As the baby, she brought me everywhere, talked nonstop to me, held me, cuddled me and I was her special little man. She led by example, a strong woman with no fear and I was cast in her die.
I can’t blame her either. She loved me. She did her best. The whirlwind that was coming was beyond even her foresight. So I guess looking back, those were the happier times, before the storm, before I had to be a bigger boy than I really was, before the devastation …..
Little Big Boy is Due for release March 2015. Check in to my blog for updates or facebook.com/maxpowerbooks