My brother was a bit of a surprise, at least to me. I had just turned 7 when I found out he was coming. We were at a restaurant by my aunt’s house celebrating a birthday, when I excused myself from a conversation about Mario Party to ask my mom for a quarter to get a bouncy ball. The floor was covered in sawdust and before I covered half the distance between us, I took a break to remove the flakes from my shoes. Then, standing before my mom with my brightest smile, I explained the situation at hand.
Pink Bouncy Ball.
My mom turned her left wrist, glimpsing at her watch, before denying my request with the classic, “it’s getting late” excuse. I tried to object, but was met with the warm pull of her arms around my shoulders, hugging me with the type of sincerity not even a bratty little 7 year old could deny. I hugged her back, tightening my arms around her waist, before stepping back, looking deep into her eyes and asking, “Are you pregnant or just fat?”
It was there, amongst the itchy sawdust and ungranted bouncy balls that my mom explained to me of the baby on the way.
“YESS.” I said as I threw my fist in the air. For years I’d been mothering a number of dolls—all named Crystal—and now I would have a full-blown human baby to take care of! I thought of my Baby Alive, the doll I’d just received for my birthday. You know, the one that will crap its pants after you feed it, like a REAL baby, so you can be REAL mom, and change its diaper with scotch tape. I couldn’t wait.
About a year later, I was on the clock. My brother had the chunkiest legs, like bean burritos. We would play this game after I changed his diaper where I would start at his feet and count, “1, 2, 3, 4…” as I tip toed my way up his BRC stems to tickle his stomach.
One day, after the laughter died down, I put him in his playpen, gave him a kiss on the cheek, and told him I was off to the real world: 4th grade. It was a beautiful spring day, the sun was out, I had Music class first, and I was rocking my new bell-bottoms. (Remember when those went back in style for a few years in the late 90s? I crushed them.)
Upon arriving at school, I felt off, a little nauseous, but I couldn’t figure out why. Even through the pledge of allegiance, the school song, and roll call—which was my favorite—I felt sick. At lunch, I started to notice others around me feel it too. Their noses started to scrunch, their eyes squinted in pain. Something was hanging over us, but we didn’t know what.
Then I saw it.
It was yellow and green and shaped like Maine. Baby diarrhea. Splotched on the front right pocket of my bell-bottoms, poisoning the surrounding oxygen like I was the shit stained cousin of Pig Pen. I rushed to the bathroom and scrubbed my way through an entire roll of wetted toilet paper, only to find myself soaking wet, with a more artistic stain now blended into my pants like a watercolor painting. Too embarrassed to tell anyone, including the school nurse, I stuck it out for the last 2 hours of school, constantly on the verge of tears.
When I got home, my brother looked up at my puffy red face and smiled as his drool oozed down his cheeks onto the floor of his playpen. I looked down at him, still utterly traumatized, but entranced in his little blue eyes. He didn’t know he had caused me permanent social damage, polluted my favorite pair of pants, and ultimately ruined my entire day with his uncontrollable bowels. He didn’t know that at 25 years old, I’d still remember this as one of the most embarrassing days of my life. All he knew was he was happy to see me, and that he wanted his diaper changed.