Seventy-two years ago Japanese aircraft attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Nearly every capital ship was damaged by bombs or torpedoes and the Pacific Ocean became basically a Japanese lake until Midway.
The next day President Roosevelt declared before Congress, “December 7th shall live forever as a day of infamy.”
I asked a score of NY teenagers about December 7th.
Pearl Harbor has receded into the mists of history and Americans once more have little idea about the location of Pearl Harbor or Hawaii, proving that America’s bliss ignorance of world geography is a long-cherished national asset.
I know what December 7th means most to me. It was the birth date of my youngest brother, Michael.
52 years ago I was standing in the parking lot of Our Lady of the Foothills. It was recess time. The weather was cold for December. My classmates were kicking a big red ball for fun and warmth. Our family station wagon pulled up before the school’s front door. My father stepped out of the car. He waved for my older brother and I to join him. My younger sisters too. We were all in uniform.
“You have a baby brother,” he proudly told us. The nuns appeared annoyed by his unapproved appearance, being fiercely protective of their authority. My father was a late convert to Catholicism. His faith was newborn and he ignored their glare.
“We have a brother?” Our mother had exhibited no sign of pregnancy over the past months and I was mystified by this potential immaculate conception.
“Yes. Michael. Your mother named him after your uncle.” My father hugged my two sisters close. They were a little more than a year apart.
“The priest?” Uncle Michael was a monsignor for Cardinal Cushing. He had met my grandmother Nana at the Boston docks after her passage from Ireland at the tender age of 14.
Six years older than me in 1960.
“Yes, and he’s going to baptized your brother at the church. Go get your things. Your mother wants you to see Michael.”
The nuns protested his request to take us out of school, but my father’s greatest love was for his children and we piled into the station wagon. The drive to Boston Lying-In Hospital took less than fifteen minutes. My father liked to drive fast.
Our small tribe entered our mother’s hospital room. She was holding Michael in her arms. Nana was holding Padraic, the fifth of our brood. He was all of 2. We were now six. A family of eight counting my mother and father.
“There goes my pony.” My older brother whispered in my ear.
Year in and year out Frunk had requested a pony from Santa Claus. I never thought that he had a chance of getting one since my mother hated animals.
I stepped closer to the bed. The red-faced baby in my mother’s arms looked more like a furless monkey than a human.
I touched his small hand. It was warm.
“Say hello to your brother.” My mother beamed with a Madonna’s love.
He was my baby brother that day and has been every day since.
Sadly Michael passed from this world in summer of 1995. I think of Michael often and my father’s telling me that I had a baby brother. I still do have one, because December 7th is a day that will live forever in my memory as Baby Brother Day.
Michael Charles Smith RIP.
My baby brother is sorely missed by family and friends.
He would have been 52 today.
I’ll raise a glass for Michael later.
Up the rebels, boyo.