Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Second Child in Kensington Brooklyn

I think it all hit me when I was about 16 years old.

“Hey Mom, why aren’t there more baby pictures of me?”
“All I see in this photo album are pictures of Joey”.
“Oh, there are plenty pictures of you Ronnie”.

Yet, as I flipped through the old photo album on our kitchen table, all I saw were dozens of small black and white pictures of my brother.

“Hey Mom, is this me with you standing on the steps of the house?”
“Oh, oh, I think that’s your brother Joey”.
“Who’s this baby in the carriage outside the Prospect Park Zoo”?
“Let me put my glasses on Ronnie”.
My mom put on her reading glasses that were draped around her neck, with the long silver chain gently rocking back and forth, she slowly came to a well thought conclusion.

“It looks like you, but I think It’s your brother Joey”.
“Mom, you didn’t buy me in Poland did you?”
“No Ronnie, I’m your Mother and I even have your birth certificate in the “hunting closet”.

Now, we had some strange names for the “closets” in our attic apartment at 399. There was the “sliding door closet” the “sewing closet” and the “hunting closet”. The “hunting closet” took its name from the fact that my Dad was a big deer hunter and usually kept all his hunting equipment in there, including his rifles which were long gone anyway.

“No, no, I believe you Mom, you don’t have to show me anything”.

Because the "second child" always understands.
And the second child is me.

And then there were the “hand-me-downs”

They used to call my tricycle the “doodie mobile”. It had no fenders, was all scratched up and had to be the ugliest brown color you have ever laid your eyes on. Yes, a hand me down from my older cousin Frankie, while my older brother Joseph and cousin Pete had these brand new tricycles with “space age” looking fenders and shinny chrome spokes.

I clearly remember rolling down the incline of our driveway at 399 East 4th and slamming into their “new” tricycles broadside.
“Hey, your'e going to scratch my bike” “stop it Ronnie, what are you crazy?” said my cousin Pete.

And there I was, with a little devilish grin on my face trying to ram their brand new tricycles with my horrid “doodie mobile”. Knowing that it could never get any worse for my “ride” and me, I just persisted in making their lives a living hell on the sidewalks of
East 4th street.

Yes, it would be “revenge” of the hand-me-downs today.
Second child “hand-me-downs”.

“You know Ronnie, you learned everything on your own, and we didn’t have to teach you anything”. “You poured your own water, and used a fork way before your brother ever did”. “And forget about potty training, I think you were doing “number 2” in just a day or so”. “If you ever have a second child, you’ll understand".

Because the "second child" always understands.
And the second child is me.

And my Mom was right you know. The second child “always understands”, from shirts to toys, to fishing poles. My older brother and cousin were always there to supply me with a wealth of goods too small or too boring for them to care about anymore. Yes, it was “Christmas” every day for the “second” child.

And as for my “doodie brown” tricycle, well, one day I was given a brand new red “space age” tricycle that matched my brother's blue one and Pete’s green one. Long gone were the days of ramming into them in front of our house on East 4th street. What do you think?
I’d want to scratch on my brand new bike?

And photographs? Yeah, I have plenty of them you know. From sitting on my Mom’s lap in our 63 Rambler to feeding her water with a straw at Beth Israel on Kings Highway the day before she died. Always telling me how much she loved me, even at the threshold of her death. Yes, more photos in my mind than a photo album could
ever hold.

And you know what, we even had a “second child” ourselves. And she already has her three year old eyes on her brother's purple bike, always asking me when she can ride it. Just another found “treasure” for our “second” child.

So you see, my Mom was right.
The second child always understands,
even if one is fifty and the other is three.

Because we are the “second children”.
And the second children are us.

Ron Lopez

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