It was a nice Saturday night. We had been in the tub; Mama didn’t even get soap in my eyes. She seemed to have forgotten the spoon of cod-liver oil she gave us normally every night. Big Sister, Mama and I played a board game, called “Keep your shirt on” while Papa read the newspaper. Our baby sister was in bed so we had to be a bit quiet. The door of the living room was left open to get some warmth upstairs from the stove.
Big Sister won the game and we asked to play another one. Mama said it was too late. Papa folded his newspaper and said that we should go to bed now. Big Sister went over to his chair and jumped on his lap and kissed him goodnight. I kissed Mama and went over to Papa to give him a kiss too. Big Sister went over to Mama.
Papa stopped me at arm length and said that he needed to tell me something. I was very curious.
He told me that I was a big boy now. I stretched myself to look even bigger. He went on: “You’re 5 years old now and big boys like you don’t give goodnight kisses and don’t sit on laps. They just say goodnight to parents and other people who are there.” He saw me looking at my sister who was on Mama’s lap. “It’s different for girls”, he added.
Mama led us to the kitchen and gave us the cod-liver oil. So she didn’t forget after all. After that she walked with us on the narrow stairs upstairs to the attic where our beds were. Our beds were separated by a sheet, to make it look like a bedroom. Mama gave me a kiss on the forehead after she had tucked me in and went over to Big Sister. I heard her giving a kiss and she wished us goodnight.
I had problems getting to sleep, kept wondering what this Big-Boy-thing meant. All this was a bit disturbing. I remembered something Big Sister had told me some time ago. She told me that we were really children of very wealthy people. They stationed us with very common folk to make us know how living in poverty is. They would come collect us in a few years again. That would keep us grateful for the wealth we normally had.
Maybe this was a first step to get more distance between these so called parents and us? But then it didn’t seem right that they treated Big Sister in a different way. I started to whisper to her, to ask if she knew more about this all. But she just told me that men never kiss and never sit on laps. Papa never sat on Mama’s lap.
But I knew he sometimes kissed her and held her. Mama would say something like: “Mind the children!” I didn’t understand that either, we were not in any kind of danger, just playing with our toys on the floor.
I whispered again, but I was stopped by the voice of Papa from downstairs. He demanded that we went to sleep. So I decided to keep quiet, not to anger him. And it seemed to me that Big Sister didn’t have the answers anyway.
Maybe I could ask my new friend Derek about this, but I was not very sure about that. He was chased by the other kids just like me. They called him the Squinter. Talking to him meant that your face got wet. And he never had answers, only questions.
I was a Big Boy now, but I didn’t know if I should be proud of that…