Berto, my eldest son, asked his younger brother Danny frankly, "Who do you think would win in a fight: you or Booey? I think you would, Danny."
Maybe Berto just assumed all boys, no matter how big, can take girls in a fight. Maybe he felt it was his duty to stand in his bro's corner of the ring, even though Danny is more than two years younger than Booey.
Danny had no such loyalties - to himself or his sex.
"I bet Booey," he said.
We burst out laughing.
I was explaining to my son Berto that his sister Ana just doesn't get in fights.
"Well, maybe it's because she doesn't stand up to people when they're being bratty and rotten to her," he answered stridently.
"Maybe it's also because she's not bratty and rotten to other people," I rejoined.
I had him, and he knew it. He gave a gorilla cry and raised a plastic basketball hoop against me with that devilish grin on his face, proving my point.
"Look," I began philosophically to my children, gathering them around. "We don't have favorites. We don't love Ana more, because she doesn't get into fights...our love for each of you is constant and unconditional. We don't love you more, Booey, because you're spunky and energetic. We don't love you more, Berto, because you're a great athlete and a great leader, too. We don't love Danny more because he's our little apple-schlapple-mapple." (At which vague, saccharine description, Daniel tilted his head and smiled winningly at me; he knew what I meant even if I didn't.) "Nothing you do or say can change our love for you. You might make us frustrated, irritated or angry, but our love for all of you is constant and unconditional."
Five minutes later I recanted as they were running - including Ana - screaming through the house, chasing each other with couch pillows and slipping on plastic grocery bags.
"Never mind!" I yelled above the din. "I change my mind. Our love is only unconditional when you're on the moon!"
Ana, Booey and I snuck out to the store one day during Daniel's naptime. Danny woke up and joined his brother at the computer for a bit, but presently he wandered back out to his papa and, in a concerned tone, asked, "Papa, where's Ana and Booey?"
"They went to the store with Mama."
Suddenly Matthew was curious.
"Hey, Daniel...what's Booey's real name?"
"No, that's her nickname. What's her real name?"
Daniel, confused, reiterated, "Booey!"
"No, her full name."
The little fellar had bestowed that nickname on his big sis and, by George, he was going to stick by it. He didn't know that it had all begun with me calling her Ella Boo; Papa shortening it to Boo; and then he adding the -ey when he was just a tot. Matthew reminded him of his sister's real name, and Daniel pronounced the long, pretty name slowly, but he has never stopped calling her Booey. I just hope she doesn't balk at it when she's a feisty teenager. Otherwise, we just might get to see that fight Berto was predicting.