Halloween was only a week away. I was six and had just begun first grade. By that time, I’d gotten over feeling anxious when entering my classroom. Instead, I felt excited—perhaps even more excited than I was about Halloween. However, my younger sister and I shared in the hope that the day would bring treats of caramel-covered apples and hard candies in primary colors, maybe even chocolates. Our neighborhood tradition was to interpret “trick or treat” as “trick and treat”: At some neighbor’s homes, we had to perform a trick before we got a treat. My contribution was usually to sing a child’s song. I imagine my sister’s part was to dance, but I remember her as being shy at that age. I would be ready to sing and bring home the sweets.

On that Monday, one week before Halloween, our mother was whisked off to the hospital. We knew we would have a new addition to our family soon! This was a time when mothers and their newborns spent a week in a hospital, recovering from the birth and getting to know each other. Nurses helped moms who were going to nurse their babies or newborns who would be adjusting to nippled bottles of formula. I’m not sure I had any idea at all why our mother and baby sister could not come home immediately, but at my age there were many things I did not understand. So, I waited patiently.

I imagine Dad was as excited as we were about our baby sister. I imagine he was also excited about having his wife at home. He channeled that into a project: We would create a large banner from butcher paper to welcome them home. He made the outline for the letters and an exclamation point. Our job was to color each letter with our crayons. There were so many letters that it would take us days to complete the project! One letter at a time, we brought our sense of color to the project: red, blue, yellow, purple, and green. Predictive of my budding personality, my focus was on staying within the lines. But all the while, the project was building up my anticipation and excitement. Focused on each letter, I gave no thought to the entirety of our efforts.

We finished after a few days of focused work on our artistic creation. Dad brought in a ladder and thumbtacks, the rolled banner in his hand. Bit by bit, the banner unfurled across the top of the living room wall: Welcome home Mommy and Michele! Our project had gone from individually colored letters to something that meant so much more.

Baby Michele would see our banner very soon. She finally arrived, wrapped snugly in receiving blankets! Dad stood by Mom as she sank into a velvety living room chair and cradled the newest member of our family. The draperies were open, the light bringing a gentle radiance into the room. My sister and I could barely wait to see our new sister’s face. Mom gently pulled back one receiving blanket and then another. Tears welled up in my eyes. She was beautiful, with dark blue eyes and wisps of black hair. And she was so very tiny! What I felt welling up inside of me was love, a feeling that continues for her to this day.