21: The Middle Child

21: The Middle Child

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Middle Child

Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.

~Carol Saline

Soon after my twentieth birthday, I had the dream. An angel was coming toward me, carrying a small bundle — a baby. It was a tiny, tiny newborn. It was a pleasant dream. So why did I awaken with the sheets in tangles and my nightgown drenched?

Well, it is August, I reasoned. And we have no air conditioning.

It was unnerving. There were no babies in my life. I wasn’t married, had no intention of having a baby in the foreseeable future, and my mother wasn’t expecting. There was just my older brother and me.

A few months later, the dream returned. The baby was in the arms of the angel, but it was reaching out its tiny hands to me as if to say, “Take me” or “Up, up.” The infant had grown.

I was intrigued. I researched the meaning of dreams. An angel can symbolize goodness. A baby can signify the desire for innocence or new beginnings. It didn’t explain much to me.

After that, the dream returned about once a year. The angel looked the same — just your typical silhouette in willowy white. I had a feeling it was the baby that held more significance.

The baby kept getting older. It went through the toddler phase, and eventually she, a little girl, appeared to be five or six. By then, the angel had disappeared. The child would walk toward me, but as soon as she was within reach, I awakened.

One day, I had friends visiting. My older brother was off in another part of the room, reclining on a sofa. My friends were discussing families. One talked about her siblings, saying how nice it is to have a sister with whom you can discuss everything. I agreed.

Then she asked me, “So, it’s just you and your brother?”

“No, I’m the middle child,” I replied without thinking. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized I had made a mistake.

My brother overheard and sprung up: “What did you say? There are only two of us. You’re the younger child.”

“Yes, I mean I am the younger of two. I don’t know why I said that,” I answered, laughing at myself.

That night, I wondered why I had blurted out I was the middle child. It’s not like I wanted to be a middle child. But I had always wanted a sister. Brothers are fine and friends can provide a certain closeness, but not like a sister can.

Soon after, my mother offered to take me on the trip of a lifetime. We’d visit my father in Czechoslovakia, where I had been born. After a few days with him, we’d vacation in other parts of Europe.

My parents were divorced when I was very young. When I was eight, my mother brought us to live in America. At Christmas or birthdays, my father would write, but that’s it. I hardly remembered him. All I remembered is that when he smiled, his eyes sparkled like Roy Rogers’ eyes.

The first night in my father’s tiny apartment, my dream returned, more vivid than ever.

On that visit, I got to know and love this kind, gentle and funny man as if we had never been apart. It was enlightening to have a father at last. Instead of traveling to other places, we stayed with him for almost three months.

On the day before our visit ended, while my father went to work, Mother got chatty with a neighbor. She learned that Father had remarried and had even fathered a child. When Mother questioned him about it, he denied, denied, denied.

I could not possibly understand my father’s reason for denying that he had remarried and, even more, that there had been a child.

I could only imagine that the bitterness between them was so great that by refusing to accept the child, he could pretend it had never existed. I cannot excuse his behavior, but it’s not my place to judge.

Supposedly, the marriage was very short-lived. The story went that the woman’s only reason for marriage was to have a child. Once the baby was born, the woman went from the hospital to her parents’ home, refusing to let my father see the infant. He paid child support, but that’s it.

Whatever reasons he had, he would not speak about that part of his life. Maybe by denying it had ever existed, he convinced himself that it hadn’t.

He never knew I knew.

I was curious about my half-sister, but I didn’t try to find her. I felt it would be disloyal to my father. Imagine such a ridiculous, heartless, senseless excuse.

Twenty-seven years later, when Father passed away, I decided my loyalty to him had been misguided. I had a sister, and I wanted to know her. I reasoned that my father, being in heaven now, would no longer hold earthly grudges. He might even be thankful that, by accepting my sister, I was making amends for what he should have done. At least, that’s how I rationalized.

After some research, I found her. Her name had changed due to marriage, but she did exist. I wrote her and sent her my e-mail.

Weeks went by without a word. I was about to give up when, one day as I was clearing out my computer, I had a hunch to check my spam. There it was — an e-mail from a person named Dana.

We began corresponding, bridging the distance of countries and the twenty-year age difference, through the Internet. We exchanged life stories.

Essentially, neither of us had known a father. I had a loving mother who only praised my father, often comparing me to him with pride: “You’re just like your father.”

Dana had a mother who only focused on the negative. Throughout her life, she was told in anger: “You’re just like your father.”

Last May, the dream-baby came to visit.

My husband and I were at the airport, looking at the flight board, checking for her arrival. I was on pins and needles when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned and gazed into Roy Rogers’ sparkling eyes — or my father’s eyes. It was my sister.

She stayed with us for two weeks. How I wished our father could have been there to see his daughters together in harmony, but I could feel his spirit with us.

We continue to correspond and plan on seeing each other again.

The baby in my dreams was not a figment of my imagination. She had been born right around the time I first had the dream — even in the same month. She may have been a premonition at first, but she was real.

That dream never returned. It didn’t have to. I finally knew what it had meant. I had a sister after all.

~Eva Carter

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