Mom was always expecting some baby or another, when I was a little girl. My friend Diann said that her mom said she knew it was spring, ’cause my mom was having another baby. Deanna rolled her eyes and turned all red when I told her, but I liked it. I was going to have eleven children, when I grew up, then I would have lots of help, just like Mom did.
Mom and Dad had a heck of a time picking out names for kids. Deanna never did get officially named until she was sixteen. She found out about that when she got her birth certificate for her driving permit. Boy oh boy, was she mad, when she read “baby girl” on the line where the first name belonged.
“I guess I can pick out any name I want,” she said, with one hand on her hip and that birth certificate wagging in the other and her hair all up in curlers so she could get it ratted up high like the girls on American Bandstand. For some reason she stayed with the name Deanna. I guessed that’s just what she was used to, so no point in changing. Anyways, I never knew what any new baby’s name was until Mom and Dad picked it out, and they said they couldn’t do that until they saw the baby. Dad said he never named a puppy or a calf or any other animal before he saw it, so why would he do that with a baby of his own?
When Baby number seven arrived at last I had a second brother. Loren continued to be our golden boy, but some of the glow was gone when there were two boys in the house. I was happy for Loren, ’cause sometimes I thought it might not be easy to be the only boy, even though boys can be pills sometimes. Dad came home from the hospital and told us our new brother’s name.
“The baby’s name is Frankfurter,” Dad said. “But, we’re going to call him Hotdog.” He looked really happy about that name, and we had some pretty unusual names, so I believed him. I guess I missed his special eye-twinkle that usually told me this was a joke, because of all that another-boy-happiness slapped all over Dad.
I went straight to school and told all my friends and Teacher that I had a new brother, Frankfurter. In a couple of days, Mom came home with little Hotdog. What a sweet little baby he was, too. I loved him right from the very start. I was happy I got to help rock Hotdog, ’cause he was super-cuddly and smelled like Ivory Flakes and talcum powder. That’s the best smell in the whole wide world.
At church, right when everyone should be quiet and praying silently, this tall skinny man, who I only saw on Sunday and whose hair looked like he used vaseline to keep it in the right place, walked right over to Mom and said in a loud whisper that everybody could hear, “Is that a Hotdog or a Bun ya had this time?” Then he smiled like he was telling a secret joke, that only Mom could understand and he was waiting for her to laugh, right there in church.
Mom’s straightened out her back and pulled her chin in tight against her neck and sucked air in between her teeth. I could tell she wasn’t happy he was whispering so loud in church, ’cause her eyes stayed straight ahead, and the skin on her cheeks was rippling up toward her ears. She talked to that greasy man so low and quiet, I barely even saw her lips move; forget about me hearing what she said. He straightened up and walked away like he had to find something quick before church got started.
Later on I found out the baby’s name was Frank, and not Frankfurter. We never called him Hotdog, either, I think that was mainly because of that tall, skinny man with the vaseline hair, ’cause when Mom told Dad what he said, Dad just made a harumphing sound in the back of his throat and hitched his pants up on one side.
Frankie was my Pal. Frankie invented Pals on account of Julie bragging about how she loved Bonita the best, ’cause she was fun to play with. Frankie said he didn’t care, cause I was his Pal, I helped him do things, like get dressed and find his shoes, and I gave him a pony-back ride anytime he asked. After that every Big Kid had a Little Kid as a Pal, and that stuck through for the rest of my years living at home. Frankie stayed my Pal, even when he no longer needed any help finding his shoes and he was too big for pony-back rides, even after I started asking him for help with some things like cleaning the barn or doing chores.
I still think of Frank as my Pal, even though he is far from a Little Kid now. Sometimes he still asks for my opinion or advice. He’s very wise and doesn’t really need my help; he just asks so I will know he likes having me in his life. I like to think he still needs a Pal, just like I do.
Happy Birthday, Frank.