Being the baby | Column

by | January 12, 2019 5:00 pm

Last Updated: January 9, 2019 at 11:00 am

Someone asked about my siblings yesterday. People are always surprised to learn I’m the youngest of four, maybe because I mostly write about one brother, T-Bob.

Just for a sec, let’s talk about being “the baby.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “Oh, I bet you were spoiled,” I could write for free. It was the exact opposite: My parents saw me as a final opportunity to get it right: I couldn’t date, drive, go to parties. They did everything but pack me off to a nunnery.

Anyway, back to T-Bob. You couldn’t make this guy up: He went from being a buck-wild 20-something to an ultra-conservative 50-something who shares his opinions freely. And loudly. I was never buck-wild or ultra-conservative, so a typical conversation ends with us popping Excedrin.

Sometimes I write about my other brother, Bubba. He’s kind, self-effacing, patient — basically, a saint. If you need a white knight, Bubba is your man. He was also Mom’s favorite; he was her firstborn, and they had an unshakeable bond for 65 years. When she entered a nursing home, he visited her twice a day, did her laundry, coaxed her to eat and smile.

I wasn’t there every day, because I live here. T-Bob wasn’t there because he has three jobs, two kids and a home two states away. Which brings us to my sister, Moonbeam. She wasn’t there because… well, she was either in Switzerland, Scotland or Israel.

Moonbeam is 10 years older than me, so by the time I was eight, she was out the door. She was a majorette/beauty queen — in her senior picture, she stares at the camera wrapped in a white, rabbit-fur stole with her red hair worn down. Every other girl had a two-foot bouffant, but Moonbeam always heard a different drummer. (FYI, she’s 5’ 7” with green eyes, perfect skin and a tiny nose, which I try not to resent.)

She earned a degree in philosophy and religion, and then left North Carolina behind. With a guitar and a backpack, she traveled through Europe, the Middle East, the UK. She lived in communes and kibbutzim, working as a nanny, shop clerk, potter and organic farmer. She got married in a redwood grove in California, and had her son in a yurt.

Meanwhile, I was getting braces and writing for the school newspaper. We didn’t share a lot of common ground.

Moonbeam became a massage therapist and explored holistic medicine, the mind-body wellness connection. She was into tinctures, herbal remedies and healing oils decades before it became trendy.

The last time we met, she was explaining all this to me while eating alfalfa sprouts; I nodded and scarfed a bag of Doritos.

“We can control our health through our emotions,” she said, earnestly.

“Really?” I replied. “Self-esteem can heal a broken arm?”

She sighed; I licked my orange fingers.

We haven’t seen each other in 15 years, which shocks some, but it’s not a big deal. Nobody’s mad. It’s not like we don’t speak; we’re Facebook friends and exchange Christmas cards. She lives in Oregon and works as a metaphysical healer; I live in a tiny town and write. It’s all good.

In fact, for Christmas she sent me a copy of her new book, 320 pages about essential oils and how to blend, bottle and use them. She even included some recipes, although why anyone would bake lavender brownies is beyond me. But I did thank her, on Facebook. It’s how we roll.

Julie R. Smith, who makes killer black bean brownies, can be reached at





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