Bo-Balden This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 5, 2013
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I sat on the floor of my grandmother’s living room, shuffling half-heartedly through a basket of wind-up toys. Most of them had seen upwards of twenty years of duty, so they weren’t exactly in prime working order. I liked my grandparent’s house. They were lovely people, and there were usually grilled cheese sandwiches available. Unfortunately, though, unless you liked National Geographic, there wasn’t much to do. Harrison was sprawled on the floor beside me, enacting a fairly dramatic police confrontation with a naked Barbie doll and a little plastic penguin. Poor Barbie didn’t know you had to have swim floaties in the park. Oh, well. The law knows no mercy. We’d been dropped here almost six hours ago. Normally, we would be in bed by this time. Grammie was generally stricter then my mom on these sorts of thing, so I was surprised we were still downstairs.

The old-fashioned, wall-mounted phone in the hallway began to ring. Grammie hurried (but didn’t run. She never ran.) to pick it up. We didn’t pay much attention until she called us over.

“Julia, Harrison!” she said to us. “The baby came!” I squealed and hopped in place. Harrison vacantly eyed the cookies on the counter. His brain, at a full sixteen months younger then mine, was yet to match its full potential. I resolved to be patient with him; when he was five, he might just be as brilliant as me.

“It’s a boy,” she continued. “His name is Alden.”

What. On. Earth. A boy? Did she really just go there? All my hopes and dreams shattered, crumbled, and were vacuumed up and thrown in the trashcan. I already had a brother. I didn’t want another one. I wanted a sister, that I could be friends with, that I could dress up, that I could play all those girly sorts of games with that Harrison didn’t mind, but wasn’t quite up to scratch. It wasn’t as if I could get myself a sister. These sorts of opportunities didn’t come around every day. What if I was the only one in there, and me and Harrison (who was my best friend, if not entirely female,) just had to live with endless little brothers popping out for ever and eternity? The thought was too terrible to voice.

“Can I talk to her?” I asked Grammie. She handed the phone to me.

“Hi, Mommy.”

“Hi, Julia! How are you?”

“I’m okay,” I replied, trying to get to the point. “Mommy, why is it a boy?”

“The same reason Harrison’s a boy, honey.” I knew how you could tell Harrison was a boy, of course, but Grammie didn’t like it when I talked about that stuff near her. Mommy is a nurse, so she doesn’t mind. In fact, I think it rather amuses her.

“So, why is his name… what’s it’s name again?”

“His name’s Alden.”

“Yeah. Why didn’t you name it Taylor? It’s a betterer name then Alden. I hate that name!” Harrison gasped at my language.

“Julia, his name is Taylor-“

“No it’s not!” I handed the phone back to Grammie and pulled Harrison away. I went back to my wind-up toys.

I never thought I’d live to appreciate the little lard-ball in my mother’s arms as we sat in the hospital room the next morning. I was uncomfortable in tights, and Harrison much the same in a scratchy sweater. Alden smelled weird. He cried. And most damning of all, he was a ‘he’. My five-year-old hopes for sisterhood had been officially crushed, and it was probably his fault.

He’d been asleep since we arrived, which did little to increase my opinion of him. He was small, fat, and completely bald. His upper lip was split in two- like a tiger, I thought. Mommy said it was a cleft lip. She would know, I suppose. I thought it was pretty ironic that my mother, the nurse, was being attended by nurses, but nobody else got the joke. There were lots of relatives passing him around and admiring him. High-pitched adoration abounded, and it was getting a little sickening.

I thought babies were kind of ugly in general. Harrison agreed on that count, though he had wanted a boy, so he was happy as a clam.

“I shall call him Alden-Bo-Balden,” Harrison announced solemnly.


“Because he’s Alden, and he’s bald.” I nodded. It made sense if you thought about it. At least I wouldn’t have to call him plain Alden.
It was hideous.

And so, long story short, I got over my grudge in about a week, having realized that even girl babies don’t do much. I would introduce his proudly to any visitors to our house:

“Hi, I’m Julia. This as Aldy-Baldy. He’s (insert number) weeks old, and he’s my brother.” A nearly palpable “not yours” hung beside the statement. His lip was fixed before he was a year old, and now you can only see the scar if you look really closely under his nose. (Although, I’ve tried that, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.) He grew hair, and lots of it. It’s shiny and curly and makes me a little bit jealous. He has these big, green eyes that always look like he’s thinking deep thoughts, or about to ask a question. He looks at me, with the faintest freckles across his nose, and I cross my eyes at him to watch him smile his snaggle-toothed smile.

He’s all I could ask for in a brother. He’s cuddly and sweet. He’s smart. He smells okay. Most of the time. And, of course, he worships the ground I walk on.
Every once and a while, I think on what my life would be like if I had a sister. She might end up prissy, bossy, girly, everything I despise. She might think I’m stupid or strange. Maybe not. I don’t know. One thing I do know for sure; Alden will never be any of those things. He’ll be my brother for as long as I live, and that’s all I want, a brother and a friend.

And doesn’t he have a beautiful name?

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