One of my first memories is of either standing or being carried down a wall of baby toys in Toys R’ Us by my father or by an uncle. I’m two and a half years old. It’s November. I’m staring at that wall of toys because I have a job to do, an honest-to-goodness task, and it’s my responsibility, because I’m no longer a baby. I’m a big sister, and I’ve been charged with picking out my baby brother’s very first toy.
I probably didn’t take too long to do this. Probably just a few minutes. But it seems like I was staring at that wall of toys for hours. I guess that makes sense; child time moves three times slower than time as experienced by adults. (Unless a swimming pool is involved. Then child time moves five times faster than adult time.)
Anyhow, I finally selected a yellow and orange plastic rattle, shaped like a bell. I remember thinking that it seemed like a good toy for a boy, but a little bit different. None of this blue-for-boys stuff. My little brother was special and deserved a special toy. I was very proprietary of him right from the beginning. Mom tells me that on that first visit I informed someone that “we just had a baby.” I might have just chosen him a new toy, but I was pretty sure that he was my new toy. Mom and Dad had produced this child just for me. I remember clutching that rattle in my sticky toddler hands as someone held me up to the nursery window at Waterbury Hospital and pointed the new O’Connell, Chris, out to me.
He has remained the newest O’Connell for the past 31 years. Tomorrow that changes. My little brother is marrying his best friend, Cayla. And then we will have a brand new O’Connell.