Friday, January 8, 2010

Alexei. Alyosha. Baby. The tsarevich.

My little brother, the only boy of all of us, was born three years after I was, and he is the darling of the family. Not just because he is ill—more about that in a moment—but because he is the most wonderful creature ever, with such a spirit, such insight...

I think his illness makes him more sensitive than most people. He cannot stand to see suffering in any creature, and cries when a guard kicks a dog or if he sees a bird with a broken wing.

When he is ill, everything stops in the house. Mama doesn't sleep, but stays by his side, only eating if Tatiana brings her something. We all creep in and sit with him. I play the balalaika for him if he can stand it. Sometimes he is curled up in pain, not even able to straighten out his legs because there is bleeding that makes his joints swell. We pray and pray, and so far, every time, he has gotten well again.

While he is recovering—then it's my job to cajole him into getting strong so he can get out of bed. The kitchen makes him all sorts of delicacies to taste, and we go in and eat anything he doesn't want, or even what he does, just to make him want it more. Normally we only eat at mealtimes, and we have the same thing over and over again. Mama once tried to change the menu for tea and it caused such an uproar she gave up in the end.

My little brother is a blessing. But he is also spoiled. When he was very small Mama let him do anything he wanted. Once at a state dinner, he crawled under the table and stole a lady's shoe. When Mama told him to give it back, he did—but with a big strawberry in the toe!

And then there was a time he ordered a whole regiment of guards (who must obey him because he is the tsarevich) to march into the sea. Their boots were ruined. What I've done is nothing like as mischievous, but we all forgive him, because he is the baby. Alyosha. Alexei. The tsarevich.

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