Mi hermanita is a real Mexicana. My sister Delia Guadalupe changed many things about our family before and since her birth. For as long as I can remember, my mother never failed to remind me of my main failure, in my mother’s eyes, as her firstborn son. I wasn’t born a girl. Ever since she was a little girl, she always wanted to have a daughter. If only I had been a girl, my mother would always remind me, I would have been her little Debbie! My mother didn’t really want to have as many children as she did, but she kept trying to have the daughter that I never was. My sister finally gave my mother great satisfaction! Unfortunately, my mother had to endure four sons before she had a daughter. And just when she thought she was done having children, my youngest brother Joseph was born! And that’s while my parents in the process of getting a divorce!
So my sister’s birth was a great blessing to our family, but especially to my mother. I was always curious as to why my mother named my sister Delia Guadalupe, but she never told me why she didn’t name my sister Debbie. I was preparing myself to have a little sister named Debbie. From my sister’s birth on, my mother’s world revolved around my hermanita. My sister was born on September 29, so the 29th of every month, my mother would have a mini-birthday party for my hermanita. My mother really loved her only daughter and she wasn’t afraid to show who was her favorite offspring. My brothers and I didn’t mind the emotional neglect because we also loved having a baby girl in the house. And we got to have a little party every month on the 29th for my sister. Those were exciting times. Until February rolled along. You see, not being a leap year, February didn’t have a 29th day! My mother worried about what to do the entire week before, but then she had my sister’s birthday celebration on the February 28 even though it wasn’t really her birthday. Then, on March 1, my mother had another party for my hermanita because now she was officially one month older. My mother was so proud of having my sister that we went to Mexico to show her off to the family when she was three months old.
I, too, loved having a little sister. Occasionally, my mother would let me feed her, bathe her, change her diapers. Since I was six, I loved taking care of my little brothers, so I had plenty of experience by the time my sister was born. I always loved playing with my brothers, but having a sister was even more fun, although I’m not sure why. If I went to the store for my mother, she would always tag along. I would give her rides on my bike. If she had money, she would ask me to take her to the store for candy. Joe’s Store was directly across the street from our house, but my sister wasn’t allowed to cross the street. So she would ask me to take her. She only asked whenever she had money. One day, she wanted to go to the store and I took her. Only, I didn’t realize that she didn’t have any money until she asked, “What are you going to buy me?”
One summer, my mother went to Mexico with my brothers. I stayed home with my father and sister. She was about four years old then. I’m not sure why they went and we didn’t, but my mother always had these incomprehensible ways of thinking, and it was better not to ask. It was easier just to accept whatever decision she made. Well, my father would take care of us, and I would take of my sister. I was soley responsible for my sister. I loved it. I delivered the newspapers early in the morning before she woke up. Then, when I returned home, I would “make” her breakfast of cereal with milk and toast with butter and/or jelly. Then I would give her a bath, dress her, and braid her hair. I fantasized about how someday I would have a daughter of my own. I began to understand why my mother was so excited by having a daughter. One day, my sister told me that she didn’t want me in the bathroom while she took a shower. I was hurt by this, but I understood perfectly well what she meant. She suddenly became conscious that she was nude in front of someone else. So I left her clothes in the bathroom and left. Moments later, I heard her screaming. I ran into the bathroom, which was filled with steam, and I saw my sister cowering in the corner under showerhead avoiding the scalding-hot water pouring down near her. She was crying. I shut the water off until she calmed down. Before I left the bathroom, I turned the water on for her and adjusted to the temperature so that it would be warm, but sister kept telling me to keep making cooler, cooler.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I was hoping to have a daughter. I would have named her Veronica, not Debbie. My wife thought I was crazy (¡Estás loco!) because I didn’t want a son. I guess I always remembered how I always looked after my sister. Anyway, we ended up having three sons and no daughters. She didn’t want to keep trying until we had a daughter.
Years later, I lived with my sister for a while soon after I got divorced. I wanted to buy a new house, but I didn’t want to have two mortgages. I wanted to wait to buy a new house until I had sold my old house. So I lived with my sister while I was between houses. I always remember how I used to take care of her when she was little. While I lived with her, somehow we reversed roles. Somehow she became my caretaker, my mother. If she was out in the evening, she would call my cell phone to tell me what she had left me for dinner in the fridge. If I went out, she would ask me where I was going. When I came home late, she would ask me where I had been. My hermanita had become my mother! Well, it was even worse because I used to take care of her when she was little. I couldn’t wait to move out into my own house! Imagine that. Me, being bossed around by my little sister, mi hermanita!
One day, we were talking about anything and everything, as we usually did, and topic turned to our preferred shower temperatures. I’m not sure why, but it did. She said she preferred cold showers. I asked her if she knew why. She didn’t. She couldn’t even think of any logical reason why. I told her I knew why she took cold showers. When I told her what had happened to her under the hot shower, she was amazed. She had forgotten all about that incident. But now she understood why she took cold showers.