Not that anyone has been sitting atop the throne that long, but the firstborn of my siblings, Mom’s favorite, is having a birthday. It hardly seems possible, but as of today, I have a 60-year old brother. This is cause for celebration!
Growing up, the firstborn was the only member of our family who had his own room. It was the “cool” room at the end of the hallway, in the back of the house. His deluxe room was well-appointed with: a for-grown-ups-only electric blanket; a desk and very orderly shelves, lined with those distinctive black, white and orange Penguin books; and of course, the latest in audio equipment: an 8-track cassette player. In our house, it was THE place to be.
At least this is how I remember it, because frankly, I only caught a few glimpses of it.
I didn’t spend much time in there. I was gently encouraged by Mom to “go play in the basement, and leave the big kids alone.”
It is true, that our first friendships and relationships in life are with our siblings. They build the foundation for all future relationships. Both our positive and negative interactions with our siblings during our formative years prepare us for dealing with others, once we enter the real world. As playmates, we learn negotiation skills, conflict resolution, and the value of teamwork.
Due to our age difference, the firstborn and I were never playmates. I’m not exactly sure what our early interactions were like. However, I do know he wasn’t the one who thought he was “the boss of me,” and convinced me to do whatever he wanted me to do. He wasn’t the one who toughened me up and kept me on my toes by teasing me mercilessly. I do seem to remember he was easy to get along with.
The firstborn and I were almost of different generations. He was a teenager with a social life before I even started kindergarten, and by the time I was 12, he was married and out of the house.
He married a fun, warm-hearted, generous and pretty girl (who incidentally wore what I thought was the most glamorous eye shadow… Maybelline Blooming Colors in the blue palette, of course) and started a family. How lucky for me! Not because there was one less under our roof – his growing family provided me a steady stream of babysitting opportunities!
The firstborn of my siblings possesses all the qualities typical of a child occupying his place in the birth order of the family: responsible, reliable, organized and detail oriented. I may not have clear memories of him in my very earliest years, but clearly, throughout my life, he has always been there for me.
In my young adult years, he reminded me to file my tax return…yes, I admit, on more than one April 14th.
He moved me into my first apartment, naturally as those things go – it happened to be on one of the hottest days in Chicago history.
He was there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day.
A few years ago, months after the unexpected loss of his wife, he was Father of the Bride. Without hesitation, he simultaneously stepped into the role of Mother of the Bride as well. It warmed my heart and made me proud. He did it all without missing a beat: He was there for dress fittings and photo shoots; learned about centerpieces and table décor; gave thoughtful consideration to menu selections; and even developed an appreciation of the beauty of chair covers.
He has been the even-tempered voice of reason; the sounding board you want when mulling over a decision. He is a true confidante. He has offered a shoulder on the saddest of days, and just as importantly, he has been an enthusiastic co-celebrant on all the happiest of occasions.
While we may not have been playmates in the early years, and I may not have been old/cool enough to hang out in his room, now that we are all grown up and sort of the same age, he is one of my favorite peeps to hang out with.
We share a goddaughter, an occasionally dark sense of humor, and an enjoyment of ridiculous Hollywood gossip and absurd celebrity shenanigans…okay, well he might just be humoring me on that one.
So today as my
oldest firstborn brother turns 60, it occurs to me, that 60 no longer sounds old. Maybe it is because he wears it so well.
He will be celebrated as: Dad, by three sons and one daughter; as Papa by six grandchildren; and of course, Mom’s favorite. Or as she would say, “He’s such a nice boy, such a good son.”
While I am 2,000 miles away and won’t be able to celebrate in person, I will raise a glass this evening to toast my firstborn brother.
And it only seems fitting that I toast with one of his favorite libations: Bombay Sapphire. After all, I’ll be celebrating the 60th birthday of a real gem.