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Then. Sammy about 5 months old, Riva, 4 years old.

My son, Sam, suggested that, if I don’t have anything to write about, maybe, possibly, I could write about him. Since I am still wrapped up in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’ve decided to take him up on that.

Sammy is 17 years old now. Since I was pregnant with him three years after I had a stillborn baby and two years after I had a miscarriage, he was probably the most watched and monitored fetus in Denver. And he was a stinker about it, too. As soon as the doctor found him and placed a belt on my belly to hear his heartbeat, he would move, and the game of “find the heartbeat” would begin all over again.

The best sound I’ve ever heard wasn’t in music, but rather the loud, shoop-shoop locomotive that was Sammy’s heartbeat in the hospital when I came to get a scheduled c-section on January 7, 2002.

Riva was three months away from her 4th birthday when Sammy was born. For months prior to his birth, I walked around telling anyone who asked if we were having a boy or a girl that “I really hope it’s a puppy!” she was, understandably, a bit disappointed. But she took to being a big sister naturally and well. Once, when she was playing with Sammy on the floor, she noticed a spider not too far away. She screamed, “Spider!” and carefully but quickly, dragged Sammy away from the danger zone.

Sammy repaid that kindness with kindness of his own. When Riva got an eye infection, and I had to administer stinging drops into her eyes, he climbed on top of his crying sister, and hugged her the best he could.

They played well together, until they didn’t. There were tears, there was screaming — but enough about me. Riva resented sharing, at times, and Sammy didn’t know how to play by himself and leave her alone, so fights were inevitable. Often, I I would bring up the fact that I was worried, because I wanted them to become friends. “Genetically, you know, there is no one closer to you than your sibling,” I told Riva as soon as she understood genetics.

“We will be mom, we will be,” she used to reassure me. I wasn’t terribly reassured.

When Riva was about 15 years old, and Sammy was 11, we were driving to visit family in St. Louis — a 15-hour drive, at the time. I turned to my daughter and asked her, “Riv (my nickname for Rivekka, because Riva wasn’t short enough), since I am an only child and can’t relate, please tell me — how does it feel to have a brother, a sibling?”

She looked at me and very earnestly said, “Mom, it’s terrible.” That tickled both Jeff and me.

Sam’s ability to concentrate on something he enjoyed was impressive. Once, for his birthday, he received a large Lego set. He got down on the floor, and in about two and a half hours, had completed the entire set.

Sammy adored his older sister, and wanted to be like her in some ways. When she wanted a guitar and started taking lessons, soon after, he also wanted to play guitar. Riva got bored with it, but Sam stuck with it, largely because he found it fun and he had a good teacher, who let him play rock & roll. He began playing when he was 12 years old, and could practice for hours. It would take Riva banging on the wall of his room and screaming at him to stop his playing for the day.

Taking his natural talent (where the hell did that come from?) and practicing for all he was worth, Sam began to excel. Now, 5 years later, he is a tremendous guitarist. People hear him and say, “Wow! He’s really good.” He is in his element, whether just jamming some jazz riffs in his bedroom, or playing in front of 8,000 people at Red Rocks Amphitheater. He plays for his high school jazz band, and plans his future with something in music. He records his own music, as well, and has a Spotify account (insert shameless promotion here)

My son and I can really hurt each other’s feelings, and can get one each others nerves — a bit of raised voices and raised tempers reflect this situation. I think that in some ways, we are too much alike, in character. That can be a precarious, prickly position — especially when I am trying to impart (for the millionth time) my hard-won life wisdom, while Sam is rearing to learn everything for himself. But I have much hope that with age will come wisdom and a bit more patience from Sam for his mom and visa versa.

And wonder of wonders, Sam and Riva are friends now. She has come to grips with the fact that a lot of her friends like her little brother, and they both enjoy hanging out.

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Now, Riva, 21 & Sam, 17

Even though we sometimes irritate each other, I genuinely like the person Sam is becoming. He is a kind soul, who does the right thing when people are in need of help or an understanding friend, he looks you in the eyes when he talks to you, is curious, he has a great, snarky, irreverent sense of humor, and he is comfortable in his own skin. I am proud to be his mother.

Writer and storyteller, immigrant, wife, mom, knitter, collector of jokes, lover of cheap, sweet wine.

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