A couple of stories centered around the beginnings of things. One about me, one about Sue. First, me, of course.
From the beginning of me I heard that Dad was trying to find his new baby boy among a crowd of newborns in the nursery window when a nurse pointed out my smiling face. “He looks like a real Irish Mick.”, he said. The nurse promptly put a sign with that very name on the side of my bassinet, and though another slip of paper somewhere said Francis Joseph Brady, Jr., from that moment on my real name was Mick. Truth be told, there were many moments in my young life when I was grateful for that name, especially during the painfully long run of Francis The Talking Mule on television in the fifties, and the occasional focus on St. Francis of Assissi in religion class. (I would later change my name legally to Mick during my brief career as a professional artist, primarily so that I could cash all the checks. There were four, I think. It was also during this transition that I began to consider the meaning of my new name, and suddenly realized how different it might have been if my family had been black.)
The other tale is from my memory of Sue’s birth. The buildup was intense: I was going to have a sister! We would run and play; she would sit, captivated, as I performed my latest interpretation of Beer Barrel Polka and other selections for her; and then she would run down to Einstein’s and get me a box of nonpareils and a root beer float, out of gratitude, most likely. I had big plans for her.
When the big day arrived I was shipped off to stay at Aunt Mary’s (Where were you shipped, Bob? I don’t remember you being there.), and seemed to be stuck there for about a week. When I finally arrived home, Mom was sitting on the living room couch with a little white bundle next to her. I walked in, looked down at my new sister, and said with deep disappointment, “That little thing?”, and walked out of the room.
Sue, the truth is you filled the void from that moment on, and before long you were forced to listen to many a song and dance while (s)trapped in your highchair, with no means of escape. Any fears that I may have permanently damaged your musical sensibility were finally erased many years later when I heard you and Cheri sing the entire soprano sax solo from My Favorite Things, something even Coltrane himself probably couldn’t have done. You still owe me that root beer float, though.