First Born Boy With Benefits

illustration town crier photo baby

A Royal Welcome (L) Vintage children’s book illustration “Bedtime Stories Omnibus” Brimax Books 1979 (R) Vintage ad- Carnation Evaporated Milk for babies 1947

By George, it’s a Boy!

Many in  the media are rhapsodizing over the fact that by delivering a baby boy, Kate Middleton delivered the goods, hitting a home run first time at bat.

Despite the fact that the sex of the first-born royal baby was supposed to be irrelevant in terms of succession and ignoring the fact that the internet often seemed royally disappointed that it was not a girl, an audible sigh of relief could be heard in the media when it was announced the royal couple had a bouncing baby boy.

baby boy 1950s

It’s a Boy! Vintage photo from Swifts Meat for Babies Advertisement 1953

A CNN Royal  commentator  likened it to a major accomplishment, praising Kate’s “brilliance” on delivering a boy “the first time.” Meanwhile Tina Brown, the editor in chief of The Daily Beast and Newsweek tweeted  “#Kate can do no wrong! Now the royals can stop pretending they were fine with a girl 1st.”

Lurking not far beneath the politically correct surface would appear to be the age-old  cultural preference for the favored first-born male.

Royal or not, for centuries the first-born son was deemed a triumph, endowed with special privileges just because of gender.

Royal Treatment

baby homecoming illustration Douglass Crockwell

The Homecoming. Vintage illustration by Douglass Crockwell for De Soto car advertisement 1945

In 1952, three years before I was born, when my tiny, premature older brother Andy finally came home from the hospital after his two-week captivity in an incubator, it was to a reception worthy of a prince…which in a sense he was.

This little blue blanketed bundle was the first grandchild and more importantly …it was a boy. It was a blessing, for blue meant there would be a bris, baseball, and a Bar Mitzvah.

Boy Oh Boy, It’s a Boy!

Perhaps as compensation  for forfeiting his foreskin, his birthright allowed him to be the beneficiary of over 5,000 years of  entitlement bestowed on the first-born Jewish male for whom nothing but the best was good enough.

Thoroughly besotted, my indulgent paternal grandmother and grandfather carried on the tradition of preferential treatment, and need only point to their own first-born son, my father as a model of exceptionalism.

Even if my brother’s endowment included circumcision, I would often be the one who felt incomplete.

Sibling Rivalry

vintage school book illustration boy

Vintage Children’s Schoolbook illustration from “At Home: Living & Learning in First Grade” 1963 by Paul R Hanna, illustration by Beatrice Derwinski

Because my brother was not used to sharing the spotlight, my parents envisioned a bleak landscape of utter chaos with sibling rivalry run amuck, when 3 years later I was born.

The day I came home from the hospital, was an ordinary Sunday morning as far as my brother was concerned,  blissfully unaware of the upheaval that was about to occur on his turf.

There had been no previous mention of a new sister, so this surprise invasion by an unknown outsider would be a rude shock to Andy. It had been decided that Dad stay at home with him to await my arrival hoping to minimize the inevitable outbursts from my tantrum throwing brother.

Homecoming

My much-anticipated arrival was worthy of Marilyn Monroe with great bursts of blue light as Dad stood at the ready with his Argus camera.

As if walking through a minefield, Mom tip toed gingerly thru the piles of spent flashbulbs that now littered our living room floor, bracing herself for the live land mine that lay right ahead-  my small explosive brother who could easily be triggered and once detonated cause quite a disturbance.

vintage  schoolbook illustration family and baby

The New Baby. Vintage Children’s Schoolbook illustration from “At Home: Living & Learning in First Grade” 1963 by Paul R Hanna, illustration by Beatrice Derwinski

Cradling me tensely in her arms, Mom sighed with great relief when my brother, sporting a new Davy Crockett raccoon hat, took one half-hearted look at this unwelcome intruder, and… ignored me.

I was nothing more than a fast asleep doll, wrapped in a cloud of soft Cela-cloud acetate jersey.

Unlike the baby dolls he saw advertised on Romper Room, silly dolls with names like Yummy and Purty that actually did things, boring old me just lay there like a lump of clay.

He sniffed uninterested, quickly grabbing a rugelach from my doting grandfathers hand before skipping away, his raccoon tail bobbing up and down, basking in a triumphant glow.

Cheerfully he began singing “…Davy… Davy Crockett king of the wild frontier…” secure in the knowledge of his own manifest destiny.

I would prove no threat to my brother’s mighty status.

There would be no relinquishing of his preferential treatment. Nonetheless an interloper had encroached on his family.

vintage childrens illustration king

Off With her head! Vintage childrens book illustration “New Friends & New Places” by Gates, Huber & Salisbury The Macmillan Co. 1956

Furtively gazing back at his new baby sister out of the corner of his eye, he quietly resolved that in time he would vanquish me, satisfied in the knowledge that this intruder would be repaid in childhood fighting and revenge leading to his total victory.

© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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10 comments

  1. How do you and Andy get along today!? As the last born in my family (girl-boy-girl-boy), I have a excellent relationship with my older siblings. I mean, I was the little prince in my family, if you believe my siblings, but we matured into best friends.

    (“You got to have a puppy, and we didn’t,” I heard so many times until I found myself in the position of caregiver and financial guy for my elderly parents toward their life’s end. All my siblings left town as young adultss as they married and found jobs. I came back to town after the universaity and the US Army, so was the only kid in the family in town. “Yeah, and I get to take care of Mom and Dad’s affairs!” I’d say. No more issues with the puppy! Ha!)

    Like

  2. Pingback: Bringing Baby Home | Envisioning The American Dream

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  4. sarfa2012

    I happen to know one thing you and your brother share in common. Both of you are brilliant writers!

    Like

    • As the insecure younger sibling, I thank you for your kind compliment. Your on going support of my blog is very gratify ing and greatly appreciated. Do you know my brother Andy, who is indeed a writer?

      Sent from my iPad

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      • sarfa2012

        I don’t know him personally, but I remember reading many of his outstanding Newsday columns.

        Like

      • Excellent detective work! Andy still works at Newsday as the entertainment editor. Even as kids, my brother and I shared a deep interest in pop culture and history and continue to do so to this day. Several years back we coincidently published books on pop culture at the same time though from different publishers and we sometimes did interviews together. The book I wrote and illustrated was called “This Years Girl” published by Doubleday, that took a light hearted look back at the fashion, music, politics and products from the fallout 1960s, the Me decade of the 1970s through the consumer conscious 1980’s, as told through the eyes of a quintessential baby boomer girl. Using paper dolls and their cut out accessories as a metaphor for the way we adopt the newest fads, fashions and implicit mentalities with the ease of folding over a paper tab, the book is illustrated with hundreds of familiar articles.

        Sent from my iPad

        Like

      • Excellent detective work! Andy still works at Newsday as the entertainment editor. Even as kids, my brother and I shared a deep interest in pop culture and history and continue to do so to this day. Several years back we both coincidentally published books on pop culture from different publishers at the same time and often did interviews together. The book I wrote and illustrated was called This Years Girl, published by Doubleday which took a light hearted look back at the fashion, music, politics and products from the 1960s, the Me-Decade of the 1970s’ through the consumer consciousness 1980s as told through the eyes of a quintissential baby boomer girl. Using paper dolls and their cut out accessories as a metaphor for the way we adopt the newest fads, fashions and implicit mentalities with the ease of folding over a paper tab, the book is illustrated with hundreds of familiar artifacts.

        Sally Edelstein

        917-837-5725 http://www.sallyedelsteincollage.com http://www.retroarama.com http://www.envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com

        ________________________________

        Like

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