Stuck in the middle
Los Osos, Calif.
A word to the wise to newly married couples … if you’re going to have kids have one, two or four but NEVER three.
For your happiness and that of your family, avoid the much dreaded middle child.
Believe me, I was one. The first child is always the best and brightest to be born ever since that kid who was born in a barn in Bethlehem. It’s true, my brother was highly intelligent, graduated number three in his class at West Point and got an MBA from MIT. That’s not bad for the son of an alcoholic father.
I was the proverbial second son who grew up on leftovers and hand-me-downs and my sister was the spoiled baby of the family. After having two boys my mom REALLY wanted a daughter which she finally got on the third try. So to recap, you had the perfect first son, the spoiled baby daughter and hey, remember me in the middle?
The problem being the second son is that I couldn’t bring anything new to the table. No new anatomical plumbing to stare at or cute little boy-dresses to buy. The newness had already been worn off by the time I arrived. My brother’s baby book is crammed full of photos, locks of hair and every page is filled out down to his first patoot. Whereas my mother seems to have lost interest in baby boys by the time I came around because she didn’t write anything in my baby book after only completing half of my first name. I swear … it’s empty!
While it may be hard to believe I was ever a quiet person, I’m told by people who knew me then that I didn’t talk until I was 3 years old and that was because my brother did all the talking for both of us. And this never changed. I’m not surprised I became a writer because that’s the only way I could get a word in edgewise.
You may think I’m exaggerating but I have statistical proof that I was the odd one out. Back when I was a kid, pickups only came with one bench seat in the cab that would hold three adults and a baby on mommy’s lap. Count with me now … there’s a father, mother, first child, baby and… oh, where’s that other kid? In the back of the truck with the dog, that’s where. I didn’t know that trucks had heaters until I was old enough to buy my own truck.
Believe me, the big chip on my shoulder is well deserved. When my sister was about 8 years old she got her dance recital photo on the front page of our newspaper in her cherub tutu outfit. My perfect brother drew a goatee and a set of devil horns on the photo of my sister in the newspaper. I thought it was an excellent likeness but my mom hit the roof and came out swinging with a yardstick to punish the young graffiti artist. But instead of thwacking my brother she automatically assumed I’d done it since my brother never did anything wrong. Then my mom told my father when he got home and after consuming his nightly quota of booze he, too, levied punishment. I pleaded my innocence but it only made them madder and they only hit harder, all while my brother didn’t say a thing! Both of them would be locked up today for what they did to me back then. Thirty years later my brother finally admitted his guilt and everyone got a jolly laugh about it. Except me.
I know you think I’m exaggerating about the horrors of being a middle child but how many of you can say that your parents ever totally forgot your birthday when you were a child? I was about 10 when it happened to me. I remember like it was yesterday, debating whether I should spill the beans or wait until the day after my birthday to remind everyone. I never could keep a secret so about time for dessert that night I asked, “Mom, do you know what day it is?”
At first she waved me toward the calendar but seconds later she replied, “It’s Tuesday, Dec. 27, OH MY GOD! I’M SO SORRY!”
And believe me, until the day she died I never let her forget it, either. ❖
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