One day, when I eight or nine years old, I was carrying my baby brother Brian around the house. I held him against my chest, facing me, and ran from the kitchen into the family room, picking up speed, before stopping suddenly to slide across the floor on my socks. On some previous day, I had discovered that this made Brian squeal with delight, and despite my stepmother’s decree that I would stop doing such a dangerous move, I continued doing it when she wasn’t around; the look on his face, and the knowledge that I put it there, was just too pleasing. Of course, she was right. On my last run, I tripped over my own feet and fell forward, more or less landing on my infant brother. I still remember with complete clarity how very wide his eyes were as I pushed myself off of him. He looked strange, lying on the bare floor, but for a split second, I thought he might be okay. He wasn’t crying. Maybe I didn’t hurt him. Maybe I wouldn’t be in trouble. And then, he started to scream. Louder than I thought a baby could scream, and that’s where my memory of the event ends. I’m sure much yelling followed and probably some punishment came my way, but I have no idea what it was. My guilt stayed with me, however, and I thought about that day nearly every time I picked up a baby for years afterward. The memory faded eventually, but it came back during a recent late night feeding, while I was half asleep and trying to burp Violet. She surprised me with a forceful, backwards jerk of her head, and I thought to myself that if my grip had been looser, she might have slipped from my arms. And in my mind, there was Brian, on the floor, screaming. So now when I walk with her, I probably hold her a little too tight. Walking back and forth in the middle of the night, trying to persuade a burp, I keep a death grip on one of her legs.
71 days old