Mom had eaten all the cookies.
“Oh no, not again!” said Josie.
“I know, I know. I’m bad. But I can’t seem to stop eating these days.” She patted her large round belly.
“You should eat things that are better for you -like salad,” said Josie.
“I know, but I think this baby likes cookies,” Mom replied with a guilty look.
It made Josie laugh. She didn’t mind that Mom was having a baby. She already had one brother, Mickey. She liked being his older sister. It was an important job. She had to teach him a lot – the kind of stuff parents never remembered to teach. How to catch a firefly. How to jump off the back of the couch onto the cushions without getting hurt. How much milk to put on your cornflakes so they wouldn’t get too soggy too fast. She’d started keeping a list so she’d remember them all. It would take a while before the new baby was ready to learn those things, but Josie believed in being prepared.
“I’ve never seen a girl as organized as Josie,” her Aunt Linda liked to say. “Or as helpful. Except for my Mary Jane, of course.”
Mary Jane would smile and nod like she was wearing a princess crown on her shining blonde curls and didn’t want it to fall off.
Josie did not like being second to Mary Jane. She did not like the way her mother said, “Yes, Josie and Mary Jane are wonderfully helpful,” instead of saying, “Why, I think Josie is even more helpful than Mary Jane.”
“Mom, when do we start shopping for things for my new sister?” Josie asked now.
“He may be a brother,” Mom said.
“I don’t think so,” Josie replied matter-of-factly. “So, when do we go shopping? She’s going to need a lot of things – “
“Don’t remind me,” Mom interrupted.
But Josie went on, “Clothes and toys and diapers and a new stroller – “
“Maybe Dad can fix the old one.”
“Mom, that’s how it got broken in the first place!” Josie said.
“I know.” Mom sighed. It seemed to Josie she was sighing a lot these days.
Late that night, Josie found out why. She woke up thirsty and went to get a glass of water. Her parents were in their room, but the door was open a little, and Josie could hear them talking.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. Everything’s so expensive these days… Food, clothes, diapers, bottles, toys, that darn stroller… How are we going to afford this baby?”
“Don’t worry, Alice. We’ll be all right. We always make do.”
“I know, Dan, but this time I’m not so sure.”
Whew. Josie chewed a piece of her hair. No wonder Mom was sighing so much. Forgetting about her drink of water, she went back to her room and sat in what she called her “thinking chair.” I’ll have to do something to help, she thought. Something wonderful. Something so fabulous Mom will stop sighing all the time. So terrific she’ll know I’m a thousand times more helpful than Mary Jane.
Josie smiled and curled up in her chair. Yes, that was a great plan! Now all she had to figure out was what that wonderful, fabulous, terrific thing would be.
Copyright © 1999 by Marilyn Singer