Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Brother

My brother had rules.
1.  Don't hug him.
2.  Don't go in his room.
3.  Don't touch anything if he allows me in said room. (His dog Yoda could drool on his pillow, but if I so much as wrinkled the comforter, I apparently left my inherently offensive sister-smell on it.)
4. Do what he says. 

He reinforced his views with backup.
Mooooom! Tell her to stop singing at the table.
Mooooom! Make her sit with her legs together.
Mooooom! She has milk-breath. (Again, the dog?)

Even then, I suspected Brett loved me.  After all, he loved his dog.  And he called me a dog so often that in the first grade I barked and walked on all-fours at school for a period of time. 
photo credit: Martha Bryant                                Disney World

As if my sheer existence wasn't embarrassing enough for a brother five years older than the little sister who idolized him, it would seem that having a dog for a sibling would push him over the edge.

It didn't.

He was too cool for that. We watched Empire Strikes Back for his 10th birthday. I've been a scifi geek--if mostly closeted--ever since.  He gave me Madonna's True Blue tape.  I memorized every word. One of my favorite memories is us blowing up his models in the field behind our house while filming it. It's no surprise I wanted to create a story to accompany the explosions, but he was the special effects guy and had no time for his little sister's nonsense.

As an adult, he put a poster of a monkey in his classroom and told his students it was a picture of his sister.  When visiting him once, a child ran up and hugged him around his kneecaps (my brother is 6'2").  Brett introduced me as his sister.  The kid's eyes widened and he whispered. "She doesn't look like her picture!"

That's when I found out I had been promoted from canine to primate.

I should not have felt as happy as I did.

In addition to being older, and therefore cooler, Brett was good at stuff I was not. Probably our biggest scholastic difference is his scientific mind. I signed up for an astronomy class in college, thinking it was astrology.  Brett became a science teacher.  One of my biology teachers accused me of asking "stupid questions" as a joke.  Another student came to my "defense" and informed her that, no, I really was that bad in science.  Such an event never happened to my brother. He created spectacular science projects.  The science fair filled me with dread, but it lit him with excitement. Most of my projects were his ideas and simple--like making a compass by rubbing a needle against a magnet. I had no ideas of my own.

He's still teaching me.

Earlier this summer, he showed up at my house with shears.  Since he's all science-y, Mother Nature likes him. Plants wilt at the sight of me. Brett has a green thumb. Mine is black. 

Every once in a while, he beautifies my neglected yard.  Most recently, he brought reinforcements.  The whole family--okay, mostly Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa--lopped limbs, trimmed bushes, and pulled weeds for an hour or so. I tried to guess where he would next tell me to clip, but I was always wrong. Of course. A beautiful lawn is a science.
Brett and Lisa in their backyard aka Eden
 A horsefly bit him that afternoon. He shrugged as blood dripped down his leg and went on clipping. If that had been me, I would have curled into the fetal position.

Still, it was . . . fun.  Usually, the surest way to get me to cuss is to do yard work, but with our families working together it was a garden party.  Maybe next time I'll have snacks and drinks. 

I'm not sure what motivates him to help us with our yard.  Maybe he recognizes my complete incompetence with all things green.  Maybe he feels sorry for plants who can't cry as my children do to complain of thirst. Maybe he's embarrassed by how sad our lawn looks and that people know we're related.  Maybe he is just super generous and knows it makes me happy.

Whatever the reason... it really, really does make me happy. Like getting that Madonna cassette or being allowed to cross the threshold of his room and play Atari.  I looked at my front yard this morning and sighed. It was pretty. I felt cool.

And I was so glad my little ones witnessed siblings as friends who know their siblings' greatest weaknesses and faults. And they help make them right with the world.  I tried to drive the point home with my son. "Isn't it nice of Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa to come help us?"

Max nodded. "That's what brothers do."


That, and compare their little sisters to animals.

photo credit: Martha Bryant

Happy birthday, Brett the Brat.

Anyone have a sibling story to share?  How does your sibling help balance you?


  1. My brother never called me animal names (several other things - but never animal names) and he has never worked in my yard - I think there's a connection between the two! You are blessed indeed to have such a relationship and you're children are blessed to benefit from it!

    Happy Birthday Brandi's brother!

  2. True, Shel. He dropped by last night and asked me if I was going to cut the trees that are sprouting up around our shrubs. Um...trees? I told him we were thinking of weeding first. His grin told me he understood I had no clue that there were trees.