When asked, "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" I reply, "Two brothers and a sister." But that is not true. My parents had another little one: the eldest. He is called The Infant of Prague.
Seems way back in the 50s, when an Irish Catholic couple married, they could look on the gift table at their reception and be sure to find a holy relic: a three-foot tall statue of the Infant of Prague.
To be gifted with such a statue meant you would always have money. I guess it goes along the same lines of burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the dirt of your front yard so your house will sell. Religion and money...always intertwined.
So this statue of the Infant of Prague went with us on all major moves. From NYC to PA, then on to NJ, CT, MA, MD, and finally to the north shore of Long Island, where he sat on the top shelf of the main foyer coat closet, keeping an eye on all who wished to hang up a coat. When you ventured there to retrieve your wrap, you felt someone was always looking at you. And it startled you to look up and discover the little fellah still on patrol, red crown on head and holy blue ball in hand, monitoring the comings and goings of the household. By that time he had a nickname: The IOP.
After my parents passed, and we all gathered to clean out the house, there existed a huge dilemna: what to do with The IOP. It was an inherited hot potato: you take him; no, you take him...round and round and round. Finally it was decided that, after the house was cleared and sold, sister Kathy would be the transporter of The IOP to the environs of Virginia. Once there, a new home would be determined for the little guy.
It was a rough trip. Somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike, my sister had to stop short in the little red Sundance she was driving, a defense against the actions of an imbecilic driver. Due to physics, The IOP was thrown from its resting place on the back seat and crashed to the car floor, chipping off a chest part of his royal robe. I remember Kathy driving in to my driveway, The IOP sitting in the passenger seat, the seatbelt securely fastened around his little holy waist. "It's a long story," Kathy said wearily. The IOP still looked regal, despite the treacherous journey.
A long story indeed. Somehow I ended up with The IOP. He is with me, sitting on the shelf of one of my bedroom closets. When I open the door to take out clothes to wear, I look up at him and say, "How ya doin', brother." And he, with the bright blue Zen Dude eyes, seems to say, "Just fine."