Today is my cousin Stevie’s birthday. He is 60. I am two weeks his junior. When we were six months old our families moved into an enormous one family house in the old part of Boonton NJ and we did everything together — including creating our own language. Unfortunately for Stevie, he could only speak our language, I spoke that and English. This meant they had to translate everything he wanted through me because they didn’t speak ‘our’ language. As you can imagine, there was not a time that I did an accurate simultaneous translation, so when Stevie wanted cereal he often got eggs and when he had to go to the bathroom, it was usually in his pants.
But my outrageous behavior never seemed to bother him. Oh sure we had a few fist fights but they were infrequent because if he hit me, my Uncle Phil (his father) would come running and either smack or punish him for hitting a girl. Most of the time we were inseparable. We had all our meals together, bathed together, entertained our parents by pretending to be ballroom dancers with complicated choreography which included leaping from sofas to chairs, we shared secrets, were always in the same classes at school, had the same friends, celebrated our birthdays together – although we had two parties on two different days they were for both of us—had identical baby walkers when we were learning to stand and move forward, graduated to identical elaborate metal ‘ride um’ horses (which would never pass a safety test today), when we could finally balance and ended up with identical red PeeWee Herman flyers before we learned to drive cars.
There was never a time that we thought of ourselves without the other. Even though I was a supposed goody two shoes and he was always in trouble. Stevie was a wonderful kid with a sweet disposition but he was mischievous, often at my instigation. If you left him alone in a room he would take the door off the hinges—it didn’t matter that he was 2 feet tall the door was eight. He would disappear in stores and usually find a place to make himself comfortable on a shelf, well above his reach. And he was never discouraged by limits or discipline. When we were about 5 we looked in my Aunt Sophie’s purse and found a few $50 bills. We thought there were so many she wouldn’t miss them so we helped ourselves to two or three and went to the hardware store where Stevie proceeded to buy camping equipment. This would never happen today for any number of reasons including the fact that no mother would allow her kid to roam the streets unaccompanied. But we were never accompanied, unless Uncle Phil took us to a museum, the pony rides, a Chinese or Italian lunch.
Anyway we were living this happy connected existence until one day, instead of going to our big old house on the hill, my mother drove us to some new places. Did I mention that she had another baby — my brother Jeffery, and Stevie's mom had given birth to Sheila three years before. And so, with the arrival of these new children it was time to find new digs. The houses were nice enough and had big yards. Stevie’s was right down the hill from My Aunts Sophie and Fritzie. Our new dwelling was about two blocks away. I thought they were OK until later in the evening, when I was playing in my new room and I felt this terrible absence of my cousin, my best friend – really my twin. It was then I realized that Stevie was going to live in one place and that was no longer with me. I was distraught. Our parents were so excited about their new moves that it never occurred to them that Stevie and I might have transition or separation issues. Their lives just moved on and we were expected to move on with them. We were not allowed to be upset because after all, we didn’t move to Siberia. And furthermore, we would see each other everyday at school.
But I was miserable and lonely. It was horrible to have no one to play with 24/7 and additionally, a new baby. We did our best to adjust and we continued to do things together and make trouble wherever possible. But it was never the same. I guess nothing ever is. So Stevie, Happy Birthday and just know, I still miss you every day. We’re just sayin...I.