Don’t Cry Out Loud

It was early. Mom, dad, and even Chris were still asleep. I couldn’t wait any longer.

I snuck downstairs in my footed pajamas. I clung to the edges, stepping slowly to avoid tell tale creaks.

The dining room was still, its wood-paneling brushed by morning sunlight. The green, shag carpeting was freshly vacuumed. The table was set with mom’s finest china.

I stepped slowly and deliberately, scanning every nook and cranny between the dining room and living room for eggs: there, above the doorbell; there, behind the curtain; there, in the couch.

In the living room, I spotted them in front of the piano: two Easter baskets, plastic grass, jellybeans, and all. I knew mine at first blush. It was the one with the 45. I knelt before it, slid the record from the sleeve, and began to sing to myself…

Baby cried the day the circus came to town
’cause she didn’t want parades just passin’ by her
So she painted on a smile and took up with some clown
While she danced without a net upon the wire
I know a lot about ‘er ’cause, you see
Baby is an awful lot like me

Don’t cry out loud
Just keep it inside, learn how to hide your feelings
Fly high and proud
And if you should fall, remember you almost had it all

I felt my father before I saw him. His footfalls shook the floor. I looked up, slipped the record back into its sleeve, and burst into tears. He ushered my silently to the stairs, and sent me to my room.

Later, after mom’s second coffee, and as Easter brunch was cooking on the stove, Chris and I tore through our Easter baskets.

“Barry Manilow,” Chris squealed. “Just what I wanted!”

My father turned to me.

“Ben? Do you have something to say?”

“Mom… Chris,” I stammered. “I know where all the Easter eggs are. I woke up early and found them all. I cheated.”

Chris found each of the eggs on his own. I sat in the living room, clutching my new record, singing to myself.

Baby was an awful lot like me.

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