Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Memory: Brothers

I am the last of five children in my family, and the only girl, and that's how I like things. Being the only girl and the baby of the family largely defined me as a child. As any parent who has more than one child knows, the youngest always identifies him/herself in terms of his/her older siblings. For my youngest, considering his siblings is natural and unprompted. If he has candy, he automatically divvies it up. If he is going someplace, the others are going, as well. A few times we've taken him somewhere by himself as a "treat," and he wonders the whole time what his brother and sister are doing.

But back to brothers. I have heard one of these two responses innumerable times upon sharing that I am the baby and the only girl: It's either 1) "Oh, you must have been spoiled rotten!" or 2) "Oh, that must have been terrible! They must have been so mean to you!"
My reply to #1: I always knew I was well loved.
My reply to #2: No, three-fourths of them were never mean to me. And I always knew I was well loved.

I love spending time with my brothers, even my eccentric oldest brother. I think they are funny, and nice, and generous people. Three of them are quite quirky and opinionated, and they are all full of ideas. Their minds never stop thinking up new projects, and, like me, they are often completely relaxed in the midst of a frenzy of activity. If you were to meet as a group, you would never question that we are siblings.

And so here they are:

James is 16 years older than I am. This photo was taken 15 or 20 years ago when he was living in a tepee on his orchard. I have a hard time explaining James, but here is an entry that skims the surface. When I was a child, James took me to piano lessons in his red convertible Spitfire. He did backflips in the living room and called my Mom, "Mother." He lived in our basement with his wife, and things were never easy.

This is John, about 30-35 or so years ago. I like to remember John from this time period. John was nearly 13 when I was born, so he was in his late teens before I have much of a memory of him. But I remember his long hair and how he would sing and play his guitar for hours. I loved the songs he brought home with him from college, like Loggins and Messina's "Danny's Song" and CSNY 's "Our House." He introduced me to JRR Tolkien and George McDonald and had cats named Gandalf, Bilbo, and Meriadoc. And John was always very, very funny.

I love this picture because I remember that wallpaper and Peter's glasses. I like to see evidence that things really did exist as they do in my memory. (And my mother still has that same electric skillet.) Peter is nine years older than I am, and he's probably about 12 in this picture. Peter was good and kind and thoughtful, and he has grown up to be a good and kind and thoughtful man. He is the brother who isn't quirky and highly opinionated, although his wife might disagree. (And I guess building a sauna in one's garage might be considered eccentric.) Still, it's all relative, and he's the son my mother worries about the least.

And then there is Stephen. I've blogged about him a lot: here and here and here and here just for starters. Stephen and I are just two years (and five days) apart, and so our childhood is completely intertwined. More than being the only girl of five, I was Stephen's sister. We entered our lives together, and breathed fog onto windows and drove matchbox cars on the bed and wore our yellow snow suits and red boots. We played the piano and played hide-n-seek and ate popcorn. I am not sure I could have been a happier child.

So, yeah. I like brothers. Yes, I did have imaginary sisters named Rebekah and Rachel, but they were unformed, fleeting girls. Real brothers have much more substance.

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