When I was 3 years old, my father was finally freed after 14 months in La Victoria jail as a political prisoner. We moved back to our house in the country, and resumed our lives under some semblance of normality.
As soon as my parents got together again, my mother became pregnant. It seems every time they got back together, there was a new baby. My mother was about 5 months pregnant when she and my father went out for a drive. My father didn’t see a speed bump (in the DR they call them sleeping policemen. If they are very high, they are sleeping generals – This was one of those). The car went up and came down really hard. When it did, my mother felt a terrible pain. By the next day, she noticed that she had not felt the baby. The next day she had a miscarriage… She mentioned that the doctor my grandfather called was Julia Alvarez’ father who had not left the island yet. My father was in Plymouth England at the time, so my grandfather took care of everything.
My mother lost the baby. Because it was the DR, other times, and the doctor was a friend of the family, my mother asked to keep the baby. They put the baby in a bottle in some solution and my mother took him home. It was a baby boy.
I know this sounds very Adams Family... but to me, it was a very normal thing. I loved to go in my mother’s closet and see the baby. For years I would sneak into my mother’s closet and look at him for hours. It simply fascinated me. The amazing thing was how much he looked like my father. The baby was perfectly formed with little tiny fingers and toes.
Sometimes I would take my friends in to see the baby in the bottle. They were fascinated as well. This was a nature class not accessible to anyone anywhere. I felt priviledged.
When my father defected to Puerto Rico, we had to leave the house in a hurry. My mother didn’t know what was going to become of us and she didn’t want the baby to end up in someone else’s hands. So she asked one of our gardeners, Abreu, who had worked for my mother for many years and was trustworthy, to please take the baby and burry him somewhere in the property. He did. We fled, hid in the country for about three months, moved to an apartment in the city where we lived for another 11 months, Trujillo was killed, we left for Puerto Rico, there were all sorts of conflicts, and in 1962 we returned to the island. After a while, the government returned my parents' properties that had been confiscated by the government. We moved back to our house in the country once more. My mother went to look for Abreu so he could work for us again, but he had passed away while we were gone. Abreu was the only one that knew where the baby was buried and the knowledge went with him to his grave.
Now looking back as a grown up, it seems so surreal to have grown up with a baby in the closet. But, as a mother, I can certainly understand why my mother couldn’t let him go. It was her baby. It was part of her. And, how many people can say they grew up with a baby brother in a bottle?