Shel Silverstein (http://www.biography.com/people/shel-silverstein-9483912) and my brother would have been good friends, if they had lived near each other when they were seven years old. Shel was ten years older than my brother and born in a different place, but they had one thing in common apparently: each thought a sister would bring a good price if sold to the right person. (https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/450780-one-sister-for-sale-one-sister-for-sale-one-crying)
Next week is my big brother’s birthday. He is seven years older than I am and when he was seven, playing cowboys and Indians was a big thing. When he found out he was getting a sibling, he requested a specific type: an Indian brother. Imagine his disappointment when he got me. I wasn’t Tonto and I wasn’t even a boy. What good would I be? Maybe he could cut his losses or even make a profit if he found the right buyer. Our Uncle Russell was the likely target–he already had a girl and he liked her so maybe he’d want another one. Perhaps, if our parents decided to try again, my brother would have better luck with his request.
So on the day I was brought home from the hospital, according to the entrepreneur now 74 years old, he offered Uncle Russell a real deal–me for a nickel. I must have known this story all my life, but somehow I had blocked it from memory until this weekend when we went up to Knoxville to celebrate his birthday. He reminded me that he had gotten a nickel for me, but then Uncle Russell refused to take me home. He had gotten stuck with a sister who wasn’t even Indian. I think he kept the nickel, too, so in my opinion, he really came out ahead, but that may not have been his opinion.
I checked and 1947’s nickel would have bought a one ounce Hershey bar back then. Today that nickel is worth between $2.20 and $4.00 (http://coins.about.com/library/US-coin-values/bl-US0005-Jefferson-Nickels-1938-1964-Values.htm). Hershey bars are worth about $.42 an ounce in today’s inflated money. There’s a lot of math involved which my brother got the genius Gene for, but I think if he saved his nickel, he could get a lot more chocolate now by trading it in for cash.
I don’t know if he’s got that nickel or not, but I do know that since he was stuck with me, he took his burden on like a true big brother, an honorable cowboy, a good guy. Oh, sure, there were those moments when he acted like a regular brother. Like the time he told me I could swing a bucket of warm cow’s milk fresh from the cow over my head without spilling it. Or the time he locked his bedroom door and climbed out his window to keep me from going in his room when he was gone (he thought I broke his stuff!). Or the time he caught me with Daddy’s big ladder propped up on a tree in order to harvest wild muscadines.
But when it came down to it, he was always looking out for me. When our mama got sick and was in the hospital. Who ironed my little dresses with the puffy sleeves? You guessed it. My brother. When I got married, who let me have my wedding reception at their house? Yep, my brother and his very wonderful wife! When I thought I wanted special house plans drawn up for me and my new husband, who drew them for free? Uh huh! Him again. When our mom was sick that last time, who was always there during the week while I was in school in Atlanta and who opened their house for me and my family every weekend so I could be with mama? Yes, my brother and his wife. And after our daddy died, too, who made certain I received all of the family treasures I wanted to remember them by? My big brother.
So this weekend, to be sure he was compensated for his nickel, we stopped by Cracker Barrel and bought him a whole coca cola cake (http://www.coca-colacompany.com/food/history-of-cracker-barrels-double-chocolate-fudge-coca-cola-cake). As you can see from the hyperlink, it is double chocolate fudge and though I have the recipe, they make it better than I do. Full disclosure here, I did eat at least 2.5 pieces myself, but I think he got his nickel’s worth. I hope he thinks so, too.
Happy Birthday, big brother! I love you.