It was not the first time I had performed “I’m A Little Teapot,” but it was certainly the most important. With hair that curled into q’s and fire station red Keds, I bounced down the hallway, locking hands with my grandmother. We’d run a few errands on the way there, including a visit to my favorite mailman, Oddly, but our final stop held enough excitement that even my two-and-a-half year old stomach knew to drop.
I marveled over the hospital’s automatic doors and abundance of latex gloves, turning the corner to see two familiar faces: mom and dad. His face covered in a scary-looking mask to conceal his perfectly-timed pink eye, my dad called me over to a tall box on wheels with a blanket placed inside. Unsure of what the box would hold, I did the only thing I knew to do–distract. “But have you heard my song?,” I said.
Without pause for response, the words slipped out, dripped in that hilarious Southern twang I mysteriously caught for a few years of my childhood. “I’m a little teapot, short and stayyyout. Here is my handle; Here is my spayyyouuttt.”
They politely listened to the tune, their attention obviously elsewhere.
The blankets inside the box held something much better than a teapot–my newborn baby brother.
The next day, my dad let me help him choose a cake from the bakery, and I of course picked the one with flowers. We stood in line as the baker topped it with the words “Welcome home, mom and Kendall!” in blue icing. Later, we sat on the couch–my mom holding the baby, my dad holding the cake. As soon as he put it down, I decided to help by removing the flowers so we could eat the rest. Reaching for a petal, my hand dove into a glob of icing. Previously, I had no mental category for icing flowers. I had no category for being a sister, either.
This is my oldest memory. It includes all of the things that psychologists say fill out significant memories — hospitals, transition, fear and cake, of course. Our first memories hinge between what we value and who we are, setting the precedent for both to continue taking shape.
I can’t remember life before I became a sister. Of course, I have home videos on VHS to remind me of my first steps and birthday parties, but I could not recall these things on my own. Kendall and I have been commonly mistaken for twins, and I don’t think this is too far from the truth. In many ways, the day his life began was when mine did, too.
23 years later, it couldn’t be more true. I can’t think of a day that would define the rest of my life more than that one. Welcoming him home and into our lives felt like inviting joy to stay.
And 23 years ago, I would never predict that I’d be spending today alone. I couldn’t have stretched my imagination far enough to cover the misery, grief and death that would one day follow my brother’s birth. But more importantly, and the thing I see the most today, my little mind could never perceive the profoundly extravagant gift of being his sister. Even on my darkest day, it will always win.
The day those little blue blankets appeared was my first day worth remembering, so it would be wrong to drift through today just trying to make it through. Today commemorates the 23rd anniversary of the best day of my life. I sure wish I knew 23-year-old Kendall, but I’m thankful to hope that a little part of him lives within 25-year-old me.
Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Here’s to an eternity of days like these to spend together. Don’t worry, I’ll be bringing a little teapot, short and stout.