Michael Sterling was born on February 15, 1987 in Princeton, New Jersey. He was born a month early but no one believed it because he was such a big baby. He was also not the most attractive baby. His father said he had a face only a mother could love and was embarrassed to admit to others that Michael was his baby. His uncle compared him to Jabba the Hut.

His 18-month-old sister Kira was at first angry that her mother had left her behind at home to give birth to Michael in the hospital but once she saw him she was delighted to have a baby brother. The first thing she wanted to do was wash his hair. She dashed in to the bathroom and grabbed the shampoo (if only she was as enthusiastic about washing her own hair.)  Shortly after Michael’s birth Kira was given a baby doll as a gift. She named it Baby Michael.

It turned out the big baby Michael’s mother had given birth to had a big appetite. When his mother went grocery shopping she’d end up with two carts-one cart of food for herself, Michael’s father and Kira, another cart for the massive quantities of baby food Michael consumed.

Fortunately as Michael grew older his looks improved and he became rather cute. He had little curls at the end of his hair that strangers were charmed by. Unfortunately they often mistook him for a girl. Even when he was wearing a shirt that said “College Boy” they’d exclaim “What a cute little girl!” Still, it pained his mother to have to cut those curls.

Michael experienced a few scares early in his life. When he was six months old he came down with a bad and persistent case of diarrhea. When Kira heard that their mother was taking a fecal sample of his to the hospital, she thought this was the funniest thing ever. “You’re taking Michael’s caca to the hospital !” she exclaimed. She had a vision in her head of his poop sitting in a diaper on a hospital bed with a thermometer sticking out of it. When Michael was nine months old he came down with croup cough and had to spend a week in the hospital in an oxygen tent. His mother showed what a dedicated parent she was by sleeping in the oxygen tent with him. His mother again proved the depths of her devotion when she put aside her intense arachnophobia to squash a giant spider that was crawling on his leg with her bare hand. When Michael was about 18 months old she made a dangerous mistake that is one of every parent’s worst nightmares. She’d left Michael in the car in the driveway to go in to the house to grab something. When she looked out the window she saw to her horror that the car was sliding down the driveway with Michael in it. Realizing she’d neglected to put the car in park, she dashed down the stairs at superhuman speeds, ran in to the driveway, stopped the car and rescued her son.

Although Kira loved her baby brother, she did experience some jealousy over him and like all siblings, they had their issues with each other. When Michael was learning to walk, his uncle (who Kira dubbed Mr. Crissy) noticed that when no one was looking, Kira would push Michael over so that he fell on the floor. Still, Kira was ready to defend her brother when she felt he was being unfairly attacked by other people. He had a tendency to scream whenever his mother left his sight. On a family vacation to the beach Mr. Crissy was left alone in the car with Kira and Michael. Michael screamed his head off. When Mr. Crissy had had enough he turned to Michael and said “Why don’t you just shut up?, at which point Kira turned to Mr. Crissy and said “Why don’t you just shut up?’

Despite his early trauma, Michael grew in to a sweet and charming child. He was known to spontaneously start singing “Skinnamarinky dinky dink. Skinnamarinky do, I love you!” and to dance with his mommy. One night when his mother walked in to his room, Michael pointed out the window and exclaimed “Mommy, I hear moles!”On weekends Michael would cook with his mother and make her breakfast in bed. On one Easter Michael presented his parents with the gift of a diorama of the house they lived in. He made it out of a box. It featured all the rooms in the house, a staircase, various pieces of furniture, all the family members including the cat and the Easter bunny.

There were, however, times when Michael would get upset, lose his temper and become irritable. When he was two years old he and Kira were arguing over a stuffed rabbit. In the end Michael stormed in to Kira’s room, threw the stuffed animal at her and yelled “Here’s your fucking bunny!” (With his r’s mispronounced. He and Kira both struggled to pronounce their r’s as children. Mr. Crissy liked to tease them by asking them to say “Park the car in Harvard yard”, which would come out “Pahk the cah in Havahd  Yahd.”

On one of Mr. Crissy’s visits he was eating popcorn in the living room with his sister and the kids when Michael became upset that his uncle was grabbing fistfuls of popcorn rather than taking one kernel at a time. “One at a time!” he instructed his uncle but Mr. Crissy informed him that he did not need to eat his popcorn that way and continued to eat it by the handful. At that point Michael burst in to tears and stormed up to his bedroom.

The trauma Mr. Crissy put Michael through with the popcorn was nothing compared to the trauma he put him through a few years later when he called the family in to the living room and said “Kira, Michael, some things are not as they appear.” He then pulled off his hair, revealing a bald head. And Michael’s world turned upside down. “Put it back on!” he shrieked as the dog snatched the wig and ran off with it. (Kira was surprised too but she thought back to the time when she’d been riding around on Mr. Crissy’s shoulders and had said “What’s that on your head?”  “Kira, do you want to get ice cream?” Mr. Crissy had replied. “Yes, but what’s that on your head?” Kira had answered back. It all made sense now.)

Then there was the time Kira and Michael opened the Christmas presents that had been given to them by their neighbor. Kira received a puzzle and Michael received a pink tea set. He was quite happy with his pink tea set but his mother had to ruin it by conforming to gender stereotypes. She informed her kids that the neighbor must have mixed up the tags on the gifts; the puzzle was for Michael and the tea set was for Kira. Michael was devastated at having the pink tea set taken away from him. He started sobbing and stormed up to his bedroom. There’s nothing wrong with a boy indulging in his feminine side. Michael loved to walk around the house in his mother’s high heels.

When people behaved in ways that displeased Michael he would say to them “You’re nasty!” When Michael behaved in ways that displeased Kira she would say “I want to chop you up in to a million pieces!” One time Kira made Michael so angry that he hit her. Kira initially just gave her standard response of informing Michael of her desire to chop him in to a million pieces but a few minutes later she realized she’d missed out on an opportunity to get her brother in trouble so she started screaming. Alarmed, her mother ran to her and asked what was the matter, at which point Kira informed her mother that Michael had hurt her.

As Kira grew older, she came up with new and creative ways of torturing her brother. When he was sleeping she painted his nails with purple nail polish, set her rabbit Scarlett O’Hare loose in his room to poop everywhere and put a sign on his door that said “Girls’ Bathroom.” One April Fools Day morning while Michael was cooking eggs on the stove, Kira dashed in to the kitchen and poured fish food on his breakfast. “April Fools!” she exclaimed. “How is that even a joke? That’s just mean” Michael replied.

There were times when Kira wasn’t intentionally mean to Michael but did things that were rather careless and inconsiderate. She had a habit of using his toothbrush. “Kira used my toothbrush again”he would say in a resigned manner as he knocked on his mother’s door and requested a new one.

Sometimes Kira didn’t cause Michael’s misfortune but she was happy to laugh at it. That time he got locked in the bathroom at the pizzeria was one of the funniest moments of her life. Then there was his ill fated piano recital. When he was about seven years old he requested piano lessons. His first year of lessons went well but in his second year he got lazy about practicing. His mother implored him to practice for his end of the year recital but he assured her he didn’t need to. That decision ended up biting him in the butt.

In the middle of his performance he messed up.After he found his place he messed up again. He then slapped his forehead and said “Doh!” in a manner reminiscent of Homer Simpson. This was met mostly by silence from the audience. Mostly. Amidst the silence Michael could hear a piercing, uproarious laugh. It was coming from his sister. That was the end of his career as a pianist.

Kira was a kid who struggled with social skills, fine motor skills, self care skills and various other skills. She was a kid who frequently flapped, paced, jumped and waved weeds in front of her face. Their babysitters remarked that it seemed like Michael was the older child and that Kira couldn’t seem to do anything right (when Michael told Kira that he’d overheard a babysitter saying that he was more with the flow than she was and asked Kira what that meant, she feigned ignorance about the meaning of the term.) All of this would have given Michael ample opportunity to be cruel to Kira and considering the things she did to him, you couldn’t have blamed him for it but to his credit he mostly didn’t go there. The worst he did was make fun of her tendency to get lost in her thoughts that she occasionally randomly vocalized. Once she was jumping around the house in front of Michael, thinking about the girls in her first grade class when she blurted out “Megan”. Michael was greatly amused by this and to this day Kira has not lived it down.

There were times when Michael appreciated Kira’s company and got along well with her though. They liked to engage in imaginative play together and they came up with some pretty great ideas. They would pretend to be birds. Michael was Bradley Bird and Kira was Sister Bird. Michael would cover himself in a blue blanket to simulate a robin’s egg and Kira would sit on top of it to keep it warm because that was her responsibility when Mother Bird left the nest to hunt for worms. She also gave her bird brother flying lessons by jumping off of the top of his bunk bed and instructing him to follow her lead.

There was a game in which Michael was a mad scientist called Professor Nerdklutz and Kira was his assistant, Myra Nerdklutz. There was another game in which Kira had a McDonalds-like restaurant called McCubes and Michael had a fancy restaurant called The Oakes. They competed for business. They also liked to make up words. Some of the words they made up were machub, machoo, mookie and doma.  They still argue over which one of them gets credit for inventing doma. Michael claims that he first came up with it when they were in the bathtub and he decided he was going to market a brand of Doma soap. Kira claims she had already invented the word at that point and Michael just appropriated it for his soap. Kira and Michael never came up with any precise definitions of the words they invented but the defense of marriage act was certainly not what they had in mind with doma.

Their parents were amused by their imaginative play. They especially liked the Nerdklutz skits they would put on for them. They also enjoyed  it when Kira dressed up as their mother and Michael dressed up as their father. The cat, Demian, did not appreciate their play so much. He especially disliked the game they played called Sandy Claws. That involved stuffing him in to a pillow case and dropping him off of Michael’s top bunk bed as if he was Santa Claus coming down the chimney. He was also not a fan of “The Walkie Talkie”which involved Michael holding him by his front legs in an attempt to get him to walk upright or The Siren, which involved Michael swinging him around by his front legs and was named for the sound he emitted, which resembled a siren. It’s probably also safe to say that Demian did not enjoy it when Michael would sit on top of him and hit him with meat cleavers. It’s amazing that Demian lived to be 21.

Please don’t think that Michael was a sadistic animal torturer. His pet earthworms did shrivel up and die because he didn’t feed them or give them water but since they required darkness it was easy to forget about them in the back of his closet. He did appear to lose his class hermit crab when he brought it home but his teacher discovered that it was just hiding under the sand in its cage. Michael did like to go fishing at the pond and this displeased a passerby who called him a murderer but Michael did have the right to exercise the privileges being at the top of the food chain afforded him.

Michael did request pet chickens despite the fact that he lived in an urban environment. This led to chickens being kept under a trampoline while Michael and Kira jumped on top of them, put in to hampers in the closet at night when their crowing bothered the neighbors and being slaughtered by hawks when the wire around the trampoline failed to protect them but ultimately it was Michael’s father, not Michael who was responsible for the fate of those chickens.

Besides, Michael has atoned for his sins against animals. He once rowed his inflatable raft across the pond to free a bird that had its leg caught on a string. Speaking of ponds and animals, Michael claims to have seen an alligator in that pond. That pond that is located in New Jersey. His family members are suspicious of his claim.

Michael has also shown great kindness to dogs. He has taken great care of his own dogs and volunteered with shelter dogs. He has advocated tirelessly for a dog’s right to sufficient exercise and repeatedly insisted to his family that an hour of walking a day just isn’t going to cut it. Some might say he’s a dog exercise Nazi. No one is more loved by dogs than Michael is. It is clear that the current family dog, Lily, considers Michael to be the love of her life. When he comes home to visit she is ecstatic and wants to spend every waking moment as close to him as possible. When he goes to the bathroom she sits by the door and whines. When he leaves the house she jumps on his bed to bask in the scent of her beloved. She’ll choose being with him over going on walks and getting treats. One time when his mother and Kira were taking Lily for a walk, Michael pulled up by the curb. Lily jumped through the car window to get to him, leaving Kira and her mother to take a walk sans dog.

In addition to being a good friend to man’s best friend, Michael has had some good human friends. When he was in preschool he had a friend named Newman. One day while Newman and Michael  were playing in the yard they came across a broken robin’s egg. “Can your babysitter fix it?” Newman asked. “Of course she can’t fix it, you dummy!” Michael was thinking in his head but since he’s a good friend he just said “No, I don’t think so” ( Speaking of eggs, Michael felt that his fifth grade teacher resembled an egg. “Don’t be silly, it’s not possible for a person to look like an egg”his mother told him but after attending  back to school night, she was forced to admit that his teacher actually was rather egg-like.) Michael’s other friends included a child genius and a boy who went on to become a rich and famous professional basketball player. Michael did sometimes feel lost in the shadow of his NBA player friend but then someone helpfully informed him that he didn’t have to be tall to be looked up to. Unfortunately this basketball playing friend’s career ended after he injured his knee while bowling with Michael but Michael can hardly be blamed for that.

It’s also unfortunate that Michael had some friends who were a bad influence on him. When Michael was in elementary school he had a friend named Nathan who had a little brother named Sam. Sam threw a rock at Michael’s head and laughed about it. Apparently that family had a penchant for the inappropriate throwing of objects because one day when Michael and Nathan were playing in Michael’s yard, they had the brilliant idea to throw pears from the pear tree at passing vehicles. That ended about as well as you would expect it to. Eventually they messed with the wrong guy and that guy knocked on Michael’s door to inform Michael’s babysitter that he did not appreciate having fruit hurled at his car. Michael’s babysitter asked him if he had mush for brains. Michael’s moment of mush brain-ness ended up costing him the privilege of watching the world series that year but all things considered, it could have been so much worse. Michael ran in to Nathan many years later as an adult while Nathan was on his way to perform community service. Something told Michael that Nathan was not performing this community service out of the goodness of his heart.

Then there was the time Michael and his friend Steve were messing around at the gym and incurred property damages for breaking a wall. Do not ask me me how one manages to break a wall. There was also the time Michael and his friends had an idea that rivaled the pear throwing in its sheer brilliance. They decided to jump off the roof on to the trampoline. It actually wasn’t the jumping off the roof that resulted in injury though.  Michael’s friend Jack ended up breaking his leg just doing regular old jumping on the trampoline from the trampoline jumping. Unfortunately for Jack the paramedics that arrived on the scene were not too sympathetic too him as he cried out in pain. They told him to think of the soldiers in Iraq. (Although Michael had seen firsthand the dangers of trampolines and although trampolines are often thought of as being exclusively for children, when Kira expressed a desire for a trampoline as an adult, he realized it was important to her and was instrumental in the purchasing and setting up of the trampoline.)

It wasn’t just Michael’s friends who were a bad influence on him. His family could be a bad influence as well. When he was about 8 years old, his father decided to take Michael driving around the parking lot on his lap. A cop showed up to inform them that 8-year-olds are not legally allowed to drive. His father did refrain from allowing his underage son to drive after that but he and Michael had to learn the hard way that regardless of one’s age, one should not travel with an expired passport. Poor Michael was detained at the airport but all’s well that ends well.

Although his father has made some bad decisions, he’s also had some wise words of advice that Michael should have listened to. While they walked by a certain plant on a family hike, his father told him to watch out for the poison ivy. Michael insisted it wasn’t poison ivy and Kira agreed with him. She decided to prove to her father that the plant wasn’t poison ivy by rubbing it on her arm. Michael decided to one up her by rubbing it on both of his arms and his face. It turns out that plant was poison ivy. The next day Michael’s red, itchy, inflamed face and his oozing, swollen shut eye proved pretty clearly that his father had been right.

Despite all of this, Michael was actually a really good kid. His honorary godmother referred to him as an upstanding citizen. He was also a talented kid. In first grade he was so good at checkers he was dubbed checker king. In the class play his performance as the shark drew him great accolades. He excelled at soccer, wrestling and lacrosse (He was fond of saying to Kira “Don’t mess with me, I play lacrosse!” ) Although Michael’s piano playing didn’t work out and he would never gain admission to Julliard, he did teach himself to play the guitar.

Michael was also intelligent, clever and witty. One time his babysitter told him to do his homework and Michael told her to do her homework. She replied that she did not have any homework because she had graduated from college. Michael said that he had also graduated from college. “Oh yeah? What did you get your degree in?” the babysitter asked. Without missing a beat Michael replied “An envelope.”

When Michael was on his way to actually getting a degree in an envelope, Kira kept asking him the majors of all his friends. Michael turned to her and said “I think your major should be majors.” Michael majored in Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Although he initially scoffed at his mother’s suggestion that he become a doctor, when he graduated college he decided he wanted to attend medical school. After taking a year off to do research in Texas, he gained admission to a medical school in New Jersey. A few years later he officially became a doctor. His residency once again brought him to Texas. Although Michael wishes being a doctor involved more time with patients and less time in front of the computer, he nevertheless works tirelessly to perform his doctorly duties and honor the Hippocratic oath. When people ask Michael what area of medicine he will be specializing in he informs them that he will not be specializing in anything because he think he’s spent enough time in training and in school, thank you very much. He’s looking forward to being a general practitioner, which will afford him the schedule of a week of grueling, back breaking work followed by a week off.

These days when Michael talks to his mother he tends to be a man of few words. Although she misses the days when he would utter more than three syllables at a time to her and would spontaneously burst in to love songs, she is very proud of all of Michael’s accomplishments and of the man he has become. Although politics and the amount of exercise a dog requires are sore spots between them, Michael is still her sweetums and she loves him very much.

Michael does wish his father was less prone to catastrophizing these days. It would be nice if he hadn’t framed Michael’s decision to take a year off from medical school to do research as him having a mental breakdown. It would also be nice if the portrait his father painted of Michael’s future didn’t involve Michael being left destitute as he was crushed under the weight of medical school debts he would never be able to pay off but Michael really did appreciate his father paying off a significant portion of those debts. Michael does wish his father wasn’t so attached to old rotting food and they once had an epic battle over whether or not to throw out an old pancake but Michael does have to admit that vacuuming up all the fruit flies that are drawn to his father’s rotting food is pretty fun. Michael’s father and most of the rest of his family do wish Michael would insist on going by his full birth name rather than allow himself to be called Mike, which hardly befits a doctor but a Michael by any other name would smell as sweet. Michael and his father have traveled the world together and if Michael can ever get enough time off work hopefully they will do more of that since Michael has drifted apart from the rich basketball player friend who was financing his other world trips.

Michael has now gotten used to Mr. Crissy’s bald head and has decided it’s okay to eat popcorn by the handful. Michael actually eats a lot of food by the handful these days and has gained a considerable amount of weight but he stays in shape by working out at the gym (and he doesn’t break any walls there.) He and Mr. Crissy have bonded over target shooting and they tend to support each other in family feuds.

As for Michael’s relationship with Kira, that’s much the same as it ever was. Michael is still much more with the flow than Kira is but he does not rub it in her face. They still have their fun and their adventures together as well as their squabbles and disagreements.  There was the time they could not find the perfect gift for their mother at their local Barnes & Noble so they drove over an hour to another Barnes & Noble only to find out that it wasn’t a Barnes & Noble, it was a Barnes & Noble warehouse. There was the time they went to a McDonalds drive through for a midnight snack and Kira managed to make Michael the MD look stupid in front of a fast food worker. Kira wanted a milkshake but the lady working the drive through said sorry, their machine was broken. Michael then asked for ice cream and the lady said sorry, they didn’t have that either. When he asked for a frappe, she became exasperated and said “It all comes from the same machine.” Then Michael realized he’d been mispronouncing ‘frappe.’

Politics is a real bone of contention between the two of them but at their latest family gathering Michael decided to add some humor to the situation by telling Kira he would give her fifty dollars if she called a certain Trump supporting family member a deplorable. Kira decided she would say “Excuse me, can you please pass me that basket of deplorables?-oh, I’m sorry, I meant bread” but they both knew it would be best not to follow through with that plan.

Kira has rejoiced in Michael’s accomplishments and good fortunes. She has commiserated with him on some of his misfortunes but of course she can’t help but laugh at some of them. She continues to embarrass him in many of the old ways and in new ways. She posts old pictures of him in his mother’s high heels on Facebook and she posts 4,000+ word essays devoted to his life on her blog. She considers it to be her duty as a sister to the great Michael Sterling.

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