My earliest memory begins with Edward, as if somehow I have no life to remember before him. The memory comes to me often, mostly at night, but more often during the day now, surprising me. It is a very early memory. Not as early as the artist, Salvador Dali, my sister Sola tells me. He could remember when he was inside his mother, Sola says, where the world looked flat, like squashed egg.
But this is my memory:
Maeve and Jack have just brought baby Edward home from the hospital. Maeve and Jack are our parents, but we don't call them Mom and Dad, except for Edward, who when he learns to talk will speak to them in a formal manner, a bit English. "Motha and Fatha," he will say in his little tin voice.
Here's the scene:
Maeve and Jack walk in the front door, Maeve carrying baby Edward in his green blanket, packed tightly like a pickle in plastic. I am only three years old, but I can tell from their faces that Maeve and Jack want us to love Edward. They look a little happy, but not too happy; a little fearful as if they are adding an unwanted puppy to our large litter. Sola, the oldest, is used to this. Edward is the fourth baby they've brought home to her. Will, seven, is interested for only the barest moment, then he goes off to read a book in the corner, to spend the day happily in his own head. Wren, not yet five, reaches out to brush Edward's face with her hand. Maeve and Jack like this, a physical sign of affection. They look at me then.
"Jake?" says Maeve.
They wait. I peer down at Edward, my face close to his.
"He will poop all day long. And throw up," Will says.
Wren bursts into laughter at the sound of the word "poop." Sola, having heard years of this talk, unscrews the top of her fingernail polish calmly. Will goes back to his book. He turns a page.
"Jake?" repeats Maeve.
And when I don't say anything she hands me Edward. Just like that. As if he were a bundle or a book. I remember sitting very still, so scared I can't move. And then it happens. Edward opens his eyes and looks at me. His eyes are the dark mud-blue of the night sky, but there are surprising little flecks of gold in them. They stare right into my eyes. My heart begins to beat faster. I try to say something. I want to say that Edward is beautiful...the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I want to say that I love him more than anything or anyone I know. But I am only three, and when I try to talk I can't say all those words.
"His eyes," I begin.
Maeve reaches out and smooths my hair. Her hand is cool and she smiles at me because she already knows what I can't say. Tears sting at the corners of my eyes. Maeve takes us both -- Edward and me -- into her arms.
"Edward's eyes," I say into her shoulder, the tears coming at last. "Edward's eyes."
Edward is little.
I sat on the floor, leaning against the bathtub, trying to do my homework. Maeve sent me to check on Edward.
"Do it, Edward."
He sat on the toilet, his legs dangling.
"Where's Motha?" he asked.
"In the kitchen."
"Read to me," said Edward.
"Please," repeated Edward.
I picked up one of his books. I didn't need to look at it. I knew it by heart. I closed my eyes. "In the great green room there was a telephone..."
"French, maybe," said Edward. Edward loved French.
I smiled. Edward was so used to hearing all of us talk that he often used words like "maybe" and "actually" and "perhaps."
"Dans la grande chambre verte il y a un télé-phone..."
"What's that?" asked Edward, pointing to another book.
I picked up the baseball rule book.
"'The infield fly rule in baseball,'" I read. "'The infield fly rule is there to prevent advantage to the fielders in a baseball game. The rule goes into effect when there are fewer than two outs and there are players on first and second base, or on first, second and third base. If it is a fair fly ball in the infield, the umpire can call "infield fly" or "batter is out!" whether or not the ball is caught.'"
"Now do it," I said.
"Because everyone does it."
"Maybe I don't want to," said Edward.
"If you don't go I'll leave you here to get a ring around your bottom."
"Actually, I have one," he said.
Sola appeared in the doorway.
"Where's Maeve? Where's Jack? What am I doing sitting here?" I said to her.
"Your turn," said Sola. "I did it. Will and Wren did it. This family is a democracy."
"Edward, please!" I pleaded.
"I want a dollar," said Edward.
Sola bursts into laughter. She pulls a bill out of her jean pocket and hands it to him. We can hear her laughing down the hallway. Then it is silent in the bathroom. Edward looks at me for a moment, those blue eyes staring into mine. Then he jumps down from the toilet and flushes it.
He hands me the dollar.
"I went a long time ago," he says. "This is yours."
Edward walks out the door and down the hallway. Then I hear him walking back. He stands in the doorway.
"The infield fly rule is not dumb, you know," he announces.
It is Edward's first day of kindergarten.
"We'll walk you to school, Edward," said Wren.
"I know the way," said Edward. "I'll walk ahead of you. Two steps."
Edward held up two fingers.
Maeve looked a little sad.
"Oh, I thought I'd walk with you, Edward," she said.
Edward shook his head, making Jack smile.
"You're busy," he said to Maeve, not unkindly.
Edward picked up his navy blue backpack with red sox on it. He wore a blue and white striped shirt and jeans. His light brown hair was smooth.
He smiled at all of us.
"Let's go," he said cheerfully.
Maeve bit her lip as if she might cry. Edward looked at her.
"You can walk with me tomorrow," he whispered.
Maeve burst into tears. Jack got up and swung Maeve around in the kitchen until she laughed.
"Out, out, all of you," he said. "Maeve will be fine. We'll put on music and dance in the kitchen. Maybe we'll eat ice cream!"
Jack shooed us out the door and we marched down the steps and across the yard. Behind us, in the kitchen, music started.
Edward turned around, two steps ahead of us, and walked backward.
"Tina Turner," he announced. He sang, "What's love got to do with it?"
"Some day I'll write a book about this," said Will.
We were all surprised. Will didn't talk very much. His look was very serious as he watched Edward.
"I bet you will," said Sola, putting an arm around him.
"Edward's not nervous or scared," says Wren very softly. "I was scared my first day of school. I'm a little scared today."
She pauses, then looks at me.
"Edward's not scared of anything," she said.
"No. He's not," I say to her. "He's not."
Edward leads us the five blocks to school.
What's love got to do with it?
When Edward is in third grade he begins to stay up later at night than I do. On my way to bed I hear whispering on the porch. A moon shines over the water.
"So when I die," says Wren, "I'm coming back as a bird. Or maybe a dog. Nobody's happier than Weezer."
It is quiet.
"What about you?" she whispers.
"A fish," says Edward promptly. "I'll be in the ocean. I'll come in and go out with the tides."
Wren is silent. I keep listening. But talk is over.
Then, just as I walk away, I hear Edward say, "In and out, in and out, in and out," three times.
Copyright © 2007 by Patricia MacLachlan
Excerpted from "Edward's Eyes" by Patricia MacLachlan. Copyright © 0 by Patricia MacLachlan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.