He is my favorite, you know. How could he not be? He was destined to be mine just as my oldest son belongs to the grandmother he closely resembles, my daughter belongs to my husband, and my littlest, Amos, well … he belongs to all of us.
I knew who my favorite would be — or at least, who I hoped he would be — so many years ago, when his uncle died. When he was still but a figment of my imagination.
My brother had been called Adam when he was alive; but when he died, the name no longer had a chance to roll off my lips. And so, my life echoed with the silence, and thoughts of the son I may one day have began to seep into my consciousness. When I did allow an utterance of the name, it came out carefully through a clenched jaw and pooling eyes; a strangled voice that I did not recognize as my own. The days of his name rolling off my tongue easily and carefree were now such distant memories.
Yes, I had said my brother’s name thousands of times, in laughter, jest, anger, rage, tattling, excitement and most of all, absolute adoration. “Adam” had once been as familial as the smell of Coppertone sunscreen or as comfortable as a swim in a not too warm tidal pool. As his baby sister, my place of safety was alongside Adam, and it was exquisite.
And then, it was gone.
In one day, at the end of one year, that whole part of my life disappeared and it felt like maybe it had all been a wonderful dream. Or was this all just a terrible nightmare?
I soon felt so alone. My parents and I stood far apart from one another — our magnetic pull lost and without him, and our relationship now difficult to navigate. You see, he was our favorite too. I knew my parents favored him, and yet I was never that bothered by it. In fact, I adored him just as much. (Plus, it would have been hard to argue that the loud younger sister who had a tendency to be a wee bit annoying would have been awarded that medal.)
Adam being the favorite did not make me any less loved, it just offered me a portrait of who I should aspire to be: as a sister, a daughter, and now a wife and mother. I’d like to think that remembering that fact shaped my personhood for the better, and has transformed me into someone that has her own tentacles of magnetism.
There is much written about the scientific evidence that parents often have a favorite child, no different than how you may gravitate towards a best friend. Though that latter fact is more difficult for me, truthfully.
My own friends are so different from one another, and have various wonderful traits and attributes. The collection of them is what I love: Each one appeals to a different part of me, and brings out the very best of who I am — whether they spark creativity, inspire forgiveness, encourage me to buck up, bring me to laughter, keep me in check, carry me back down to earth, or wipe away my tears. All are qualities of the friends I adore the most, but none belong to one single person.
Aren’t our children the same way? A mirror-image of the same philosophy? I can’t help but think so — especially when I think of the tiny humans I call my own. I love them all so very much; but my favorite is Russell.
Adam Russell Harrold Wood.
The name that I so loved — the name that had washed out to sea on a hot July day in 1990 — came pouring back into my heart 17 years later with my son’s arrival. You see, the thought of him gave me hope that I may love again. My dreams of him filled the void that had been left the day I stood at my brother Adam’s funeral, surrounded by a sea of people, reading a poem I had written.
It was entitled, “I’m Glad You Gave Me A Brother, God.” And it was my goodbye.
The birth of my second son brought those dreams and hopes to fruition, and now there is a new name I say aloud in the same cajoling and annoyed way I once called to his uncle. In the end, I could not call him “Adam” — the pain was too sharp, though the name swirls in my thoughts and on the tip of my tongue with a smile. So we call him Russell, instead.
I still have to swallow the ever-present lump in my throat if I think too deeply about my first Adam, and how I still long for my children to have known the beautiful lanky boy that would be so grown up by now. He is still a perfect picture of youth in my own mind, though I am nearly 22 years older now than he was when he left this earth.
“How can that be?” I so often think. It is a matching game I can not comprehend and so, I don’t try for long.
Do you see now why he is my favorite? Will you excuse my bad parenting just this one time? A much-needed pass for this Mama, and a gesture of thanksgiving to the son that arrived and landed to conquer a much bigger space in my heart — far larger than that of his three siblings.
To Russell, I owe an unending amount of gratitude; as he has oozed into the crevices of sorrow and melted the hardness that could not be chiseled away by parents or a loving husband, or even his older brother, who awoke in me a love I thought would never be again.
My Russell is bigger than life and just like his mother, can annoy his siblings to no end. His constant touching and loving, his overly loud voice and raucous laughter … sometimes, it can all make one feel like they could scream.
However, his Uncle Adam lives in him as well, and he is a gentle soul; one that defies imagination, pontificates his beautiful translucent thoughts, and has always been a snake charmer. My son has an ephemeral sense of empathy about him, and when I hug him, I remember those arms that embraced me long ago — hesitant, casual, but with a bit of magic.
Yes, my favorite lives on.