I was an only child.
That is probably why I spent so much of my childhood reading story books, writing mini-stories, and watching episode after episode of "Winnie-the-Pooh". I dreamt regularly of hopping on half-sunken logs with Pooh, Tigger, and Roo in search of the "hunny pot"-snatching Heffalumps in the Hundred Acre Woods. I wrote story after story about magical pencils that could turn drawings into real-life objects or beings and about secret agents jumping from one building rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of an evil mastermind.
Maybe another reason why I developed a taste for such activities is because you didn't need anyone else to do them. You could do them alone and all by yourself; and being an only child, I had to spend a good amount of my childhood by myself.
My family lived in a neighborhood devoid of children; or if there were children, they were hidden in their respective homes and were only allowed to go outside if they had the proper adult supervision, just like I was. For a good amount of my childhood, I would sit down on the topmost step of the staircase, stare at the dim, empty corridor in front of me, and wonder what it was like to have a sibling.
I don't know when and how the thought made its way to my young mind. Maybe the question came about after listening to too many of my mother's childhood adventures with her two closest sisters. Maybe I was jealous my father had five siblings and my mom had twelve when I had none. Maybe it came about after watching too many shows starring rambunctious kids causing mayhem with their partners-in-crime (a.k.a. their brothers and/or sisters). Maybe it came about after becoming lonely being the only kid at home and not having a child just like myself by my side when the grown-ups were out doing their grown-up things.
Whatever the reason, I obsessed over the idea of having a younger sibling of my own and finally finding out the answer to my long-mulled question.
Finally, I went past merely obsessing because what good would it do me? I held the essence of Matthew 21:22 tightly in my heart: "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
I clapped my small hands together and prayed with all my heart:
"Lord God, I pray that You may give me a younger sibling, please. I don't mind if it's a boy or a girl. Please just give me one, please. I really, really, really want a younger sister…or brother…please."
That was what I did whenever I had the chance to: when I was lying between my mother and father in our shared bed and was about to fall into a deep slumber, when class was about to begin, when I was kneeling on a pew's pedestal during Sunday Mass, when my family and friends were telling me to make a wish on my birthdays, when I was writing letters to Santa on Christmas Eve.
That was I did so often that practically everyone knew that I wanted a younger sibling. Well, everyone except for God.
After what seemed to be an eternity of saying the same prayer over and over again, I got fed up. At the age of seven-and-a-half, I stormed to my bedside, slammed my hands together, and practically yelled, "God! I've been praying for a really, really, really long time, but I still don't have a little sibling! Why, God? I believe so much! Why?! I'm mad at You now, God!"
I guess God must have been teasing me back then. After I got over my little tantrum and chanted the prayer again and again for a few more months, He finally answered my prayer. When my mother announced that she was pregnant, I jumped up and down in pure joy. I was finally going to have a little sibling!
For nine months, my prayer of request turned into one of thanksgiving and anticipation. At the age of eight, I was telling almost everyone that crossed my path, "Hey! Hey! I'm gonna be an older sister in a little while!" My parents and I flipped through baby books to pick the perfect name for the baby. On impulse, I screamed out as I pulled on my dark, shoulder-length hair in a fit of desperation, "We can't find a name that goes nicely with Lorenzo! Where is the justice in the world?!" It was then and there that we decided to name the baby "Justin Lorenzo".
The big day came at last. My father held my hand as we walked down a hospital corridor and peered into the nursery from behind a large glass window. He shook my shoulder lightly and pointed to a particular baby.
"Hey, baby girl! Look!" he said with a huge smile on his face. "That's your little brother. You're an ate now!"
I pressed a hand against the glass as I gazed down with ecstatic eyes at the yawning, red-faced child in front of me.
Right when we were about to leave the hospital and bring our new family member home for the very first time, I asked my mother if I could carry the baby. She placed him carefully in my arms, and I rocked him gently from side-to-side. "Hello, little baby! I'm your older sister, your ate! I love you!" I whispered to him in a singsong voice. I then sang him a nursery rhyme, just like what they do in books and in movies. He just slept in my arms the whole time, making little gurgling noises from time to time.
At the age of eight-and-a-half, I got my little brother. Happily ever after, right?
Not quite. Remember: be careful of what you wish for because it may just come true.
I remember the first night my brother came home being a crying fest. He was supposed to sleep in the crib we put brought inside the family's shared room, but all he did was shriek and scream and kick his little legs. It was when my parents both cooed him and rocked him again and again that I realized that I hadn't taken something into account: our parents' attention.
I had a rival now. I had to kiss those days of unshared parental care and affection goodbye.
And at that time, I believed that my wish didn't really come true because I didn't get my longed-for playmate and constant companion. What I got was a colicky baby that kept the whole house awake all night.
At the thought of shattered dreams, I couldn't help it: I screamed, "Send him back! I don't want a little brother anymore!" and cried along with him.
In the end, my parents didn't send him back. They let me sleep in a different room, so I could get a good night's sleep. Those days, I would ask them again and again with teary eyes, "Do you still love me?" They would sweep me in their arms and answer, "Of course we do!", but my little heart would ache all the while.
However, despite my own insecurity, I still wanted to spend time with the baby. I always had a soft spot for babies, and I took pleasure in feeding the baby milk and playing peek-a-boo. When he would be deep in slumber, I would crawl next to him and whisper: "Hey, Justin! Grow up faster, so we can play together soon!"
And after a few years, he did grow up. From being merely a living, breathing doll that'd spend all his time crying and sleeping and sucking milk from the comfort of his own crib, he turned into a spoiled, naughty, and untamable toddler bent on mass destruction. He defaced the walls and my school notes with crayons, slobbered and teethed on anything he could get his hands on, and ripped pages out of various textbooks. I was quite sure that the little brat took general pleasure from driving everyone around him – me especially – crazy.
At the age of eleven, I wanted to smack my younger self for wanting another kid at home in the first place. (I refused to call that prideful, hyperactive, and recalcitrant monster my little brother. He was just the other little kid at home.) Whenever I thought of him, my chest pounded with rage. No wonder my friends ranted about their own siblings with frightening passion. Why, oh why, did I ask for a headache?
In an attempt to save my sanity, I grabbed my valuables and avoided the rascal as much as possible. I had my own life, and it had nothing to do with that thing. My method was so effective that, at times, I forgot that he was even part of the family. When I would be asked to set the table, I would take out only three plates. I had to be reminded again and again that there had to be a plate for Justin too.
My mother had to lock us up in the same room just so we would be together. She scolded me again and again: "Stop saying Justin's annoying! He's your only brother! There are only two of you! You need to be close to each other. You've only got each other!"
*But I was steadfast in my belief: he came too late. We were eight years apart. How could anyone possibly expect us to be so close? Just why did God send me a brother so late?
Now, I realize that I spoke too soon.
Now, at the age of sixteen, I cannot imagine life without Justin. I don't know when or how it
happened, but for the past few years, we have been so close that we are practically inseparable. It's almost as if we are physically attached to each other.
For years, I searched for a sibling's love; but in the end, it found me.
Love works in mysterious ways. It isn't something you search for. It finds you when your heart is tired of hoping and you are so close to giving up. It slips into your heart and brightens up your life without your permission. And when love finds you, you just can't explain it.
Maybe that's a little brother's own special magic. He holds you tight and gives you all the love in the world, and though he's still a spoiled brat, you can't help but love him back.
Without fail, he makes his way to my study table and gives me butterfly kisses. He always remembers to leave a piece of cake or candy for me. He holds my hand whenever I fetch him from school, and I know from his bright eyes and his jaunty walk that he's proud to have me as an older sister.
Such love makes me feel guilty. I have to admit that I forget to leave a little something for him from time to time. I don't play with him as often as he'd like me to because I have to do schoolwork. Other times, I just make up excuses just because I don't want to.
He has the understanding to leave me alone when I ask him to and the love to come running back to me when I feel lonely and need a hug.
Sometimes, I think that he knows how to be a sibling more than me.
But I try my best to show him that, despite my own flaws, I love him more than he ever knows.
I should have never doubted God's judgment. My beloved little brother didn't come too late. He gave me the opportunity to enjoy the simple things in life and look at the world with the eyes of a child once again. He gave me another chance to enjoy childhood; and the same time, he made me grow up. He helped me forget about myself and taught me how to care through example.
He came at the right time, and I got all that I prayed for and more.
When our parents were out one night, he woke up from another one of his nightmares.
He suddenly sat up on the bed and cried: "Ate! T-the zombies are going to get to our house!"
I sighed from my study table. Letting him watch me play Plants vs. Zombies proved to be a bad idea.
"Just why would the zombies get to our house?"
"Because we have a small lawn!" he wailed, his voice cracking in genuine fear.
I couldn't help but laugh. I crawled next to him and made him lie back down. I got the blanket and tucked him in. "Don't worry. Zombies don't exist! And if zombies do swarm outside our house, Ate will just bring them down with pea shooters. Go back to sleep, okay? I'll make sure you're safe. Because…"
I hummed to him a little song from my favorite children's book: "I'll love you forever./ I'll like you for always./ As long as I'm living/ my baby brother you'll be."
I kissed him on the forehead, and he clutched unto the blanket, smiling as he dozed off.
I stroked his short, dark brown hair and gave him another kiss on the cheek for good measure.
I was an older sister.