I have a big brother, but I always wanted a little baby. My mama says when I was little I used to plead, "Can I please have a little sister/brother?" So I was excited when Mama told me a baby was coming! She shared with me. Every day I hugged the baby in her tummy. I put my head against her, listening, saying, "Good morning! How are you today?"
Did I want a little sister or a little brother? I didn't know. I wasn't sure which would be better. I was just so happy that one was coming! Mama got fat. Our neighbors told me that I had to be her special helper and that when we needed help, I should let them know. The midwife came to our house one day to talk to Mama. I played in the corner. I was taking care of my pretend baby when I heard Mama cry.
"Puah! No! You won't, will you?" Mama leaned forward, gripping Puah's hands tightly.
Puah patted Mama's hands. "Jochebed, Jochebed. Of course not. We've told the Pharaoh that Hebrew women are too vigorous, and we don't get there on time! But you need to know his order. I'll try to protect you, but if you have a boy, the Pharaoh will want to kill him. The Pharaoh is really determined now."
I ran to Mama, hugging her. I glared at Puah. "What does the Pharaoh want to do?"
Puah nodded sadly. "Miriam. The Pharaoh wants Hebrew baby boys killed. It's not right, but Ahmose has the power. We need to be strong."
I cried when he was born. He was so beautiful! So strong, so sturdy, so perfect. Mama and I praised each little toe, polished each toenail, rubbed him from head to foot with fragrant oil until his golden skin glowed. But he was a boy, and we knew we would lose him.
"Not today, Mama?" I cried. "No, my dear," she murmured, stroking my hair while she rocked him. "Not today. We will keep him for a little while, my precious baby. But Miriam. You know he will soon cry too loud. Too many neighbors know. We can hide him for a while, but you will have to let him go. Do you want to hold him?" I sniffled, nodding. Mama showed me how to sit, to hold his head. She told me I should cuddle him without squeezing too tightly. He fell asleep in my arms. I watched him breathe and admired his dark eyelashes, and one of my tears splashed his cheek.
He grew bigger. Each day his cries were louder. Mama and Papa argued at night. Papa thought we were foolish--that it was too dangerous to keep our baby. He didn't want us to get hurt. One afternoon Papa brought some papyrus reeds home. He cut them all to one length and tied them into bundles. Soon I could see he was building a small boat, a boat like the large reed boats that majestically sailed the nearby Nile. When I asked him why he was making a boat, he snapped at me. After that I just rocked my baby brother and watched.
A few evenings later, the boat was finished. Longer than Papa, it was beautiful. Mama heated a pot of smelly black tar and painted the entire boat. She said the tar would help the boat float. That evening grumpy Mrs. Zilar from next door shouted at Mama. "Your babe is too loud! You must get rid of him! The soldiers will come, and we will all suffer!" Mama was crying, and I knew it was time to say goodbye to my lovely little brother.
Oh, we fussed over him the next morning! Mama hugged him, and I watched in awe as he greedily nursed. We carefully dressed him. For the very last time, we counted his little toes. Such wonderful toes. I snuggled him lovingly, and Mama carried the boat. We slowly walked to the river. I knew this river--played along it, swam in it. Until today, the river had been my friend. Today it was no longer my friend, for its current would steal my baby.
Standing among the reeds in the shallow water, Mama kissed his nose and tucked him into the center of the floating boat. He cried when Mama closed the cover. Mama choked, a strange funny sound, and pushed the boat into the current. She splashed out of the water and dashed for home. I ran along the bank, watching the boat spin, catch the current, and slowly, slowly slide downstream. I waved as his boat sailed away, my tears spilling over. "Goodbye! Goodbye, baby! Goodbye!"