Twenty-three years ago today, Mother’s Day in 1991, my brother Robb and I went to go meet our new baby brother. I was rather disappointed that said baby brother was not the Elizabeth Grace I was expecting. My mother had decided to get surprised again, and not find out whether she was having a boy or a girl until she gave birth. But due to how she was carrying, she was fairly certain it was a girl, as it was more similar to her pregnancy with me than Robb. Also, I already had a wonderful brother, and was now ready for a little sister! Especially given my age – nearly 16. My own kid-hood was winding to a close, and I perhaps narcisisstically thought it would be cool to help navigate a new little girl through the peaks and perils of life.
But instead, my new sibling was Eric Christopher, a baby brother. And in the second I met him, all disappointment that he was not a girl washed away and was replaced by fierce love, loyalty, and annoyance at myself for wanting a sister in the first place. Because there in my arms was the most perfect baby anyone could ever wish to meet.
Eric went on to completely change my entire life. I already knew how to take care of babies from baby-sitting, but had never spent 24/7 around an infant. I learned how simultaneously strong and fragile little babies could be.
When Eric was 18 months, my mom went back to work part time in the summer. I got to watch him morning through early evening, three days a week. He taught me that I not only can wake up early in the morning, but love it, as there is nothing like a pot-bellied baby laughing excitedly about everything the world had to offer that day, to make those early hours seem downright magical. He taught me that housework and meal cooking was something I completely enjoyed, when I was doing it for someone for whom I’d give my life. He reminded me that there were people for whom I’d give my life.
Eric was always a hilarious baby, but I’ll never forget being stunned into silence when he was three, and gave a sarcastic reply to something I said. It was like, why is the sweet baby who validates all my jokes suddenly giving me ‘tude? When I was able to speak again, I just said, “Eric, are you being sarcastic?” He just laughed knowingly, pleased with himself, and sauntered away. We realized later that *someone* had figured out how to read the Calvin and Hobbes books in the bathroom.
Pretty much since then, it’s always been about everyone’s keeping up with Eric, and not the other way around. By the time he was 10, I was taking reading advice from him in the form of Harry Potter. When he was 11, he gave me a hard time for never finishing book four. And to this day, while I’ve still never finished the book, the sting of his admonishment remains.
Because 23 years after he came into this world as my baby brother, Eric is one of the people whose opinions I value most as a person. He is the one who bought me Children of Bodom’s “Follow the Reaper,” from which I learned how incredibly relaxing metal could truly be. He is the one who helps me logically sift through agenda, devil’s advocacy, and personal stubbornness when it comes to politics. And he is the one who’s taught and continues to teach me about ethics towards animals. I’ve always been a bleeding heart who saves bugs, but he is the one who truly practices what he preaches.
He is the better writer, the wittier one, and the possessor of true heart and mind, if this were a “Game of Thrones” episode that *I* wouldn’t understand.
Happy birthday, Eric. Thank you for being you.