Do you know those lists of journal prompts which ask you to talk about your first relationship, the worst thing that happened to you in high school, a teacher who influenced your life in a good way? I saved a bunch of them back in November when I was forcing myself to write every day and needed a push on occasion.

One that I saw on more than one list which always made me cringe was to write about my first childhood memory. I struggle with that one because I think when I look so many years back, my memories are not in any type of chronological order. If I claim one to be the first, another one will be prompted to come through some day and I have no control over that. Plus, most of my memories are not happy ones so I purposely try not to remember childhood.

I do have one very vivid memory I don’t talk about. I may have mentioned it once or twice throughout the years or have manufactured it into some kind of sibling joke about me always being the most responsible one. For example, I know I have told the story about how my younger brother stole my babysitting money off my bedroom dresser. Stealing is a crime after all. But I was the one who got in trouble with my parents as they felt I enticed him by leaving it out. Trust me, then and now, I do feel this is a very flawed argument and not one of their best moments. My parents had a coin jar I could see every day. I never took anything out of it. I don’t think my sister did either. Thievery can be avoided.

My brother was very much the “Divine one” growing up because he nearly died at birth. Every baby before him born with his particular defect had died and my parents were told he had a 98% chance of dying. It was a harrowing experience for my parents and one which I think altered both of their brain chemistries forever after. I completely understand that.

As a child, it was very difficult for me. Every first born experiences challenges of being “replaced” by a sibling but my experience went far deeper than average because he was the miracle baby who was supposed to die. Even though he did make it, he wasn’t expected to have a “normal” life and I lived on the periphery of that which my parents just couldn’t hide very well. Despite that being a one in a million birth experience, it happened to them again with my sister. Hence, my childhood of privileged neglect, decades of therapy and the fucked up mess I have continued to be as an adult because my deformed childhood shaped my brain and the way I viewed the world.

But that’s not the story I am here to tell. My parents sent me to therapy at a very young age as they thought I might try and kill him. It reminds me of a scene in season 1 of Ozark when the parents take a boat out into the lake to talk about their strange son who one feels may be indicating early signs of being a serial killer. It’s actually a very funny scene and makes me wonder if my parents once had a similar conversation about me.

It definitely sucked having the kid around. He was the center of everything in our house and could do no wrong. If he did do something he shouldn’t have, it had to be because I made him do it. I was the bad seed. My parents were actually happy the day he hit me with a hockey stick. They felt I deserved it and were glad he could fight back. No concerns at all that their 2nd child was using weapons to beat people with.

What they didn’t know is that if we were playing with the neighborhood kids and somebody picked on him for having a sunken chest (a leftover consequence of lung collapse as a newborn and the damage done by the machines to keep him alive) I would hit them, bite them or scratch them. He was a shit but he was my blood and no one else was going to take a swipe at him besides me. I was fiercely protective. I knew he was the family prize.

We were playing in the front yard one day when my parents were at work. The babysitter was inside watching soaps and running up our phone bill. My brother was playing in the driveway closest to the street. I was on the lawn. Others kids were there but I never remember who. Had to either be Sally or Kathy/Merri and company if it were my friends…Brian and Jeff if it were his. A car pulled up and asked him if he wanted candy. Yes, just like a cliche after school movie. He immediately approached the car and the door started to open. I must have moved faster than ever before because I remember grabbing him and pulling him away within seconds. The car sped away.

Later that night when my parents were home, the police came to our house to take a statement from me. I didn’t remember much other than that visceral, motherly, protective response of somehow knowing what that man had been there to do and that my brother was about to be kidnapped. Yet, I did remember the color of the car. It was so important to me I get the shade right that I went to one of my arts and crafts boxes where I had all those little colorful beads kids were putting on large safety pins – early 80s before friendship bracelets but probably around the time Mom and Mrs. Jones were making us fancy barrettes with ribbons which was a “thing.”

I knew I had the color bead of the car. I was sure of it. I made the policeman wait while I fished through all the beads until I found it. There it was. Powder Blue.