Five Big Brothers


I just knew that we were going to have a baby brother. After all, there were already five boys in our family—James, Joseph, Ammon, Adam, and me, Alex—so we were ready for another baby brother.

Every night for weeks we talked about Benjamin David—that’s what we were going to call the new baby. At night the five of us would lie in bed and talk about little Benjy.

“Alex, do you suppose he’ll be able to go fishing with us this summer?” James asked.

“Well,” I answered, “I don’t know about this summer. He won’t even be able to walk by then.”

“Then I’ll bring him back a big crawdad,” Ammon insisted, sitting up in bed. “He’ll want to play with something.”

I laughed. “Maybe we’d better wait awhile before we bring him any crawdads.”

“Yeah, they might bite his toe or something,” Adam said and giggled as he hugged his green blanket.

“We’ll have to teach him to ride a bike,” Joseph suggested, “so he’ll be able to ride down to the park with us.”

“I’ll let him ride with me for a while,” I volunteered.

“And we’ll teach him to wrestle,” James added.

“Why, Benjy will be the best wrestler around,” I bragged. “And he’ll play football and baseball just like a pro.”

Sometimes Dad stayed in our room after tucking us into bed and telling us good night. He listened while we talked and bragged about little Benjamin David. Dad didn’t say much at first. Then one night, just a little while before Mom went to the hospital, he asked, “What are you going to do if you get a little sister?”

Our talking stopped. “Oh, we’re not going to have a sister,” Ammon said. “We’ve already decided that. There are going to be ten boys in our family. If you and Mom want some sisters after that, it’s OK with us, but we need to get the ten boys first.”

Dad thought for a moment. “Sometimes Heavenly Father sends a girl,” he said quietly.

“A girl!” Joseph said. “We can’t have a girl. A girl can’t wrestle and play football and fish and race and ride to the park with us on our bikes. Besides,” he grumbled, punching his pillow, “girls are sissies.”

“Yeah,” James agreed. “And we’ve already told everybody that we’re going to have a brother. We’ve already picked out his name.”

“But if you do get a little sister—”

“Dad,” James cut in, trying to be patient, “we’ve already decided on a brother. Besides, what would we tell our friends?”

“Your friends have sisters,” Dad said.

“Yeah,” I said, “but we don’t want to be like them. We’re the only family around that has five boys in a row.”

“And we don’t want to mess things up with a sister,” James added. “Our family’s just for boys.”

“Your mom’s a girl,” Dad pointed out.

“Oh, it’s all right for moms to be girls,” Joseph said. “We’re not saying that Mom can’t stick around.”

“Yeah,” I chimed in, “Mom’s super, even if she is a girl; but a family only needs one mom, so we only need one girl, and Mom’s it.”

The next week Grandma Cluff came to stay with us, so we knew it was almost time for Benjamin David to show up. We were getting so excited that we could hardly go to sleep at night. Adam had already started sleeping in my bed. He was getting too big for the crib anyway, and we wanted the crib ready for Benjy.

Then one morning when we got up, Mom and Dad were gone. Grandma was in the kitchen fixing breakfast. She smiled at us and announced, “Your dad took your mom to the hospital last night.”

“Benjy’s here!” Adam squealed.

Grandma smiled again and dropped another slice of bacon into the frying pan. “I hope so,” she said. “We’ll know as soon as your dad comes home.”

It wasn’t five minutes later that we heard Dad’s car pull into the driveway and the car door close. All of us rushed to the door as Dad came in. He looked really sleepy, and he hadn’t shaved his whiskers, but he had a big smile on his face.

“Where’s Benjy?” Adam shouted, climbing into Dad’s arms. “I want to see Benjy.”

Dad laughed and gave him a squeeze.

“Where’s Mom?” Ammon pulled on Dad’s trousers until Dad lifted him up with Adam.

“How big is he?” Joseph asked.

“Does he look strong?” I wanted to know.

“Does he look like he’ll be a good wrestler?” James demanded.

Dad laughed again and walked into the kitchen, still carrying Adam and Ammon. He sat down at the table, and we all crowded around him so that we could hear all about Benjamin David.

“When can we see Benjy?” Joseph asked.

Dad looked around at us and held up a hand. “Hold on a minute,” he said, grinning. “Benjy didn’t come this time. Marni Nadine came instead,” Dad said proudly.

“Marni Nadine?” James asked, pushing away. “Why, we’ve never talked about any Marni Nadine.”

“And who wants to name a perfectly good baby brother Marni Nadine?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Joseph spoke up. “That’s a sissy name. Everybody would think he was a girl. Let’s just call him Benjamin anyway.”

“But you don’t have a baby brother,” Dad said. “You have a little sister.”

“A sister!” We stared at each other and then at Dad.

Dad gave a huge sigh. “Heavenly Father doesn’t always send what we expect, but whoever He sends is always very special. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy or a girl.”

“But why did He have to send a girl?” Ammon muttered, getting down from Dad’s lap. “Who’s going to play football with us?”

“And who’s going to go fishing with us?”

“And why have a girl right in the middle of ten boys?”

“Because,” Dad explained patiently, “a girl is what Heavenly Father wanted to send.” He thought for a minute. “This must be a very special baby girl. Not just everyone gets to have five big brothers.”

We didn’t say much after that. We ate our breakfast quietly while Dad and Grandma talked about Mom and Marni Nadine. I had never been more disappointed. All I could think of the rest of the day was that we had been cheated out of getting out baby brother.

The next morning, when Dad went to get Mom and Marni Nadine, we stayed home with Grandma. I tried to get the others to play football with me, but they just sat on the front steps and stared glumly down the street.

Adam was the first to see the car. He jumped up and rushed out to greet Mom and Dad. I guess he’d forgotten that Benjy wasn’t going to be in the car. Dad picked him up and carried him around to Mom’s side and opened the door. The rest of us crept around the car while Dad helped Mom out.

Mom smiled at each of us and hugged the bundle as she carried it into the house. Even though I was still disappointed that Benjamin David hadn’t come, I was curious to see what a baby sister would look like up close.

Mom sat down on the sofa, and we all pushed up close as she began peeling the covers back. Mom held up a little mouse of a girl with a round head and just a tiny bit of brown hair. Her eyes were shut tightly, her cheeks were soft and fat, and she was kind of red all over.

All of us just stared. Then Ammon went close and touched Marni on the cheek with his fingertips. He turned around and grinned. “She’s soft.” He touched her again. “Real soft.”

Mom looked at me. “Would you like to hold her, Alex?”

“I’ve never held a sister before,” I mumbled, backing away.

“Then I’ll hold her,” James volunteered.

“No, I’ll hold her,” I declared, pushing forward. “Just because I’ve never held a sister doesn’t mean that I don’t know how.”

I sat on the sofa next to Mom, and she laid Marni Nadine in my arms. My baby sister was so tiny and light that I hardly knew I was holding her. I was afraid to squeeze hard, because I didn’t want to break her.

“What do you think Alex?” Dad asked as Marni stretched and rubbed her fist against her cheeks. Her eyes cracked open a little, and then she closed them.

“She’s all right, I guess,” I mumbled. “She’s kind of cute—for a girl.”

“Girls are supposed to be cute,” Dad said.

“Then she’s not ‘kind of cute,’” James argued. “She’s the cutest sister in the whole world.”

“You’re right,” Joseph agreed. “If we’re going to have a sister, she’s not going to be just an ordinary sister. She’s going to be the cutest sister around.”

“Yeah, and besides,” I added, “there’s no reason why we can’t teach her to fish, ride a bike, and play football. Just because she’s a girl doesn’t mean that she has to sit around and do nothing. Our little sister will be able to do anything she wants, because we’ll help her. And remember what Dad said. Not just every sister gets to have five big brothers!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown