CHANGE OF HEART

CHANGE OF HEART

From Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul

Change of Heart

We acquire friends and we make enemies, but our sisters come with the territory.

Evelyn Loeb

When our youngest sister was born sixty years ago, my little brother was six and I was eight. I had always been the “big sister” and he had always been “the baby.”

Our sister’s arrival was a complete surprise to both of us. In those days no one worried much about sibling rivalry, and no “experts” told us how to deal with another child in the house. We had wise and loving grandparents, however.

I was thrilled about the baby and loved to hold her and help care for her. My brother’s feelings were quite different! He looked at her briefly and left, preferring to spend the evening in his room. When I went to his room to talk to him and try to get him to play games with me, he just looked away.

“Why did they have to go and get that old baby?”

Later that night, Grandpa came over to see the new baby. As he held her, he said to my brother, “You know, she’s a lot like that lamb I’m raising on the bottle. I have to take care of her and feed her often, just the way your Mama does with the baby.”

My brother said, “I’d rather have the lamb” under his breath, but just loud enough for Grandpa to hear.

Even though Grandpa seemed pretty old to me (at least fifty, I figured), he could hear very well, and he heard my brother’s muttered comment.

“Well,” said Grandpa, “if you’d rather have a lamb, maybe we could trade. I’ll give you a day to think it over, and if you still want to trade tomorrow, we’ll do it.”

I thought I saw him wink at Mama, but I knew I must have been mistaken because Grandpa never winked at anyone.

After Grandpa left, Mama asked my brother if he wanted her to read to him. He cuddled up beside her, and she read to him for a long while.

He kept looking at the baby, and Mama asked him to hold his little sister while she went to get a diaper. When Mama came back, my brother was gently touching the baby’s smooth black hair, and as he held her hand, she grasped his finger.

“Mama, look! She’s holding my hand!”

“Sure, she knows you’re her big brother,” Mama smiled. He held the baby for a few more minutes, and he seemed much happier at bedtime. Grandpa came back the next evening as he had promised and called my brother to talk to him.

“Well, are you ready to trade the baby for a lamb?”

My brother looked surprised that Grandpa had remembered the bargain.

“She’s worth two lambs now.”

Grandpa seemed to be taken aback at this breach of contract. He said that he’d have to think it over and would be back the next night to talk about it.

The next day was a Saturday, and my brother and I spent much of the day indoors watching the baby have her bath, watching her sleep and holding her. My brother held her three more times that day. He looked worried when Grandpa came to see us that evening and called him over to talk.

“You know, I’ve thought about that baby-and-lamb trade all day, and you really do drive a hard bargain. I’ve decided, though, that the baby is probably worth two lambs. I think we can do business.”

My brother hesitated very briefly before answering Grandpa. “She’s a whole day older now, and I think she’s worth five lambs.”

Grandpa looked shocked, and he slowly shook his head.

“I don’t know. I’ll have to go home and give your offer some serious thought. Maybe I’ll have to talk it over with my banker.”

Grandpa left soon after, and my brother seemed worried. I tried to get him to play some games with me, but he went to Mama’s room and held the baby for a long time.

The next day, Sunday, Grandpa came to visit us in the early afternoon. He told my brother he had come early because if he had to round up five lambs and get a room ready for the baby, he’d need an early start.

My brother took a deep breath, looked Grandpa squarely in the eye and made an announcement: “The baby is worth fifty lambs now!”

Grandpa looked at him in disbelief and shook his head.

“I’m afraid the deal’s off. I can’t afford fifty lambs for one little baby. I guess you’ll have to keep her and help your parents take care of her.”

My brother turned away with a little smile he didn’t know I saw, and this time I really did see Grandpa wink at Mama.

Muriel J. Bussman
As appeared in Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul

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