Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Dear Tiago,

Happy Birthday! I am so sorry I can't be there with you to celebrate your special day, but I hope this letter will prove to you that you are in my thoughts.

I remember when Mom brought you home from El Salvador, when you were just a baby. We were in the airport arrivals area in Geneva, waiting, and she arrived wearing you in a brown baby sling. You looked up at us with big eyes, uncertain who we were, but you didn't cry.

Today is my little brother Tiago's 26th birthday. This makes me feel very old, given that oftentimes I still remember him as the little six-year old in the above picture. This letter is for him.

I remember you as a smiley little kid. You had an infectious giggle, and the best "who, me?" expression ever whenever we caught you eating dirt from the potted plant. I loved showing you off. "Who's that?" curious people would ask when they saw us together. "That's my baby brother," I'd say proudly, even after you were really too old for that term.

You haven't always had an easy life. Your first set of parents had to give you away, because they knew they couldn't give you the life you deserved. Your second set of parents got divorced and you had to go live way on the other side of the world with your mom and two big sisters, with your daddy a long plane ride away. That's a lot for any little kid to deal with when he's only five years old. And it can't have been easy to always be the one who stood out, though perhaps it helped that we're not a very lookalike family to begin with.

But everybody always loved you. You ran around on the soccer field flapping your arms, and people smiled. Dania and I weren't always very nice to you: we dressed you up like a girl before the age where you knew to push us away, we nicknamed you 'Tiaga,' we tickled you. But boy did we love you. And still do, even if you managed to make us both aunties long before either one of us will be a mother.

I am very proud of you for growing up, slowly but surely, for being such a loving daddy to little Ellie, for nurturing your love for music, and devoting yourself to the kids you work with. I know you're making a positive difference in a lot of young, impressionable lives.

I hope this year will be a special one for you. I hope you'll take lots of positive steps forward, and receive many happy surprises. I hope you'll continue to hit your own milestones even as Ellie walks and jumps and leaps over hers. I can't wait to see you again soon.

No matter how old you get, you will always be my baby brother.