The sound of shattering glass sent Mom into immediate superhero rescue mode. Her young mind filled with visions more horrible than the reality of the situation could ever produce. She raced to the back door to find my brother, and the dog, free of gaping wounds and gushing blood. In the time it took for her to breathe a sigh of relief, the switch flipped from rescue to reprimand. After a brief lecture and quick swatting, my brother’s indignant, sniveling response was to become one of the classics. This moment would be shared around our house for decades to come.
Spank Tippy, too. He was watching.
Fortunately, Tippy was watching from a safe distance as my brother shattered a glass bottle on the rounded concrete top of the storm cellar in the backyard. Had I been outside at the time, no doubt I too would have been joining Tippy under the bus for being a voyeuristic accomplice.
The joys of boys! Who wouldn’t want to hear the splintering sharpness of breaking glass and witness the explosion of savage shards blasting away from the point of impact?
I had it easy. I could learn from my big brother’s mistakes.
The oldest sibling has to figure things out for themselves. He provided me with many valuable lessons in consequences and what not to get caught doing. We were three years apart in age but, for the most part, got along really well. You might say we were the unicorns of the sibling world.
I was not too girly to enjoy Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels. He was not too manly to enjoy baking a treat in the Easy-Bake Oven or watching cartoons with his little sister. Sure, we had our own friends and did our own thing. I was busy creating worlds of adventure for my Barbie dolls while my brother was enjoying his own world of play.
I don’t know what he was doing. I was busy in my bubble.
Friendship between a brother and sister does not always come easy. Somehow, we were able to come together in a middle ground without really trying. He pulled me around in his wagon pretending we were part of a wagon train as we crossed the river, a.k.a. the wading pool. We played detective, chasing our wily foes with smelly cap guns in hand.
I don’t know how many times we harvested the braided oval area rugs in that little brick house on 9th Street. Releasing cars down the orange Hot Wheels track dropping from the dining room table was timeless fun. I can’t count the batches of brownies and cookies we made together in the kitchen. Dragging a finger through the cookie dough, making sure to capture a chocolate chip along the way. (Yeah, I still do this.)
A spoonful or two of brownie batter made a special treat to tide us over while the star of the show baked in the oven. We used those little brown bowls that were part of a set Mom got for shopping at the local grocery store. (Yep, still do this, too.)
Jump forward a few decades and conversations with my brother are infrequent. We aren’t estranged. We flew in different directions when we left the nest. Life just happens.
Even so, he still knows me better than most people do. Together we shared the forming of the deepest inner rings of who we are.
Like the rings of a tree, personality grows a little at a time. The circumstances, relationships, and dreams of each year adding more and more depth to the outer surface. The inner rings become the foundation of identity buried in the core, silently influencing the outer ring. Hidden from visibility from all but a select few of the surrounding forest.
My brother and I are distant but still connected. Once in a while, we come together again in that middle ground we discovered in our youth. It’s nice. Not smashing glass just for the hell of it kind of nice, but nice all the same.
I will always look up to my big brother. I have to. He’s over six feet tall.
He will always look out for his little sister. Well, if you ask him to, he will.
That’s the thing about brothers.