Billy was indisputably the baby of the family
for twelve years;
Now, there were five of us children
and two adults
sitting around the kitchen table,
the baby sitting in a wooden high chair,
next to mom,
spilling his milk (UNTIL A NEW RULE
WAS PASSED AND NO ONE WAS ALLOWED
TO HAVE MILK DURING SUPPER)
and smearing creamed spinach
on his hands and his face
and the wooden tray-top to
the high chair,
or chewing on a chicken leg.
Additionally, it should be mentioned
that he was born on mom’s birthday
which gave him one-up-manship
that none of the rest of us
could compete with.
How could you compete with
being born on mom’s birthday
when you weren’t?
To make matters worse,
when he was only two or three years old
he became very sick,
and spent what seemed
like a very long time
in the hospital.
At first they thought
he had polio
and then decided
it was a virus.
To the best of my knowledge,
his illness was never fully diagnosed.
He was thin and spindly forever after.
Billy wore a cowboy hat,
and had a cap gun and holster
and would request a new cap gun
and holster for Christmas every
year. His aim was–unquestionably—
to grow up and become a cowboy.
But likeable? oh yes, likeable–
so no one could resent him
for being adorable
or mom’s favorite. He quite often
wouldn’t go to sleep until mom
responded to his question “Do you
love me and like me?”
We called him the baby of the family.
And even though two more siblings
were born in 1957 and 1961,
Billy maintained his status
as baby of the family
forever after in our eyes—
and he did become a cowboy.