Saturday, May 14, 2005

sibling rivalry

My brother has a red barn . I still find this fact a little amazing. Of course, I understand that barns are not unusual in many parts of the country. I've seen the pictures. I've even taken a few. It's just that, growing up as we did in New York, my brother always seemed like the last guy you'd figure to someday be the proud owner of an actual barn in rural/suburban Texas.

He's my only brother, just 13 months younger than I, and I'm afraid that growing up I treated him rather shabbily. There was the time Mom left us down in the basement to play for an hour and I painted him blue. I used to jump off the seesaw just to see him come down with a bang. And there was that day at Nunley's Amusement Park, when he came running up, excitedly calling my name, anxious for me to ride with him on the Ferris Wheel. I can still see his sweet, happy little face crumple as I, with cold-blooded calculation, summoned my cousin to ride with me instead. It pierces my heart like an arrow when I think of it now, that thoughtless cruelty of children, and its ensuing reminder of what a lousy big sister I could be. It could be that my callousness made him harder that day. It could be why he became a Republican. I have only myself to blame.

The years went by, we fought like cats and dogs, and by High School were barely on civil terms. He ran with the motor heads and guys who preferred Shop class to English Lit; I hung with the AP geeks who ran the school paper and fancied themselves intellectuals. He played in a band and had to beat the girls off with a club; I somehow managed not to have a date for the prom. When girls called for him, as they did constantly, I would answer the phone with all the charm of a surly prison guard.

"He's not here!" I would bark sullenly into the phone. "What do I look like, his secretary?" Our frequent arguments at the dinner table often ended with one of us declaring that when we were adults we would not allow our children to play with each other.

"Your kids are gonna be so messed up, I wouldn'twant my kids anywhere near them!" he'd fume.
“Fine by me. Your kids are gonna be so stupid my kids won’t want anything to do with them.”
"Your kids are gonna be dorks!"
"Yours are gonna be idiots!" Ad infinitum. Till my father shut us up, no doubt pondering a future filled with dorky, idiotic grandchildren.

Of course, that was a long time ago, and my two nephews are fine, handsome, intelligent and charming young men, of whom I am inordinately proud. Alas, the potential dorkiness of any offspring I might have had shall remain forever one of life's little mysteries. I suppose it would have depended on whether or not 'dork' is a dominant or recessive trait. I suspect the former.

Today, my brother has a beautiful, talented wife, a successful business, those two lovely boys, 3 dogs and a wide assortment of motor vehicles. He takes good care of our mom, who lives in an apartment built onto the house. He plays in a band that enjoys local popularity and regular gigs. He is kind, thoughtful and generous, with many friends and responsibilities, and when I am there we often laugh so hard we cry. Then we laugh some more. We used to do that a lot too, when we were kids.

We wish now that we lived next door to each other, and could be in each other's lives every day. But he's a Texan by choice, and I'm a Californian by nature. I crave the smell of ocean air; he needs to be surrounded by wide open spaces. The Lone Star state defines the meaning of the term 'conservative republican' and is home to it's highest leaders; I may as well have 'liberal' and 'kick me'tattooed on my forehead. Assimilation is not likely.

But then again, there is always that red barn. The Hubs and I could move in there. After all, what family wouldn't want a crazy old Auntie and a bookish Uncle Turk living in their barn? We could organize conflicting protests, and then all go out for dinner. Maybe some day, when we're older and...oh let's never say grayer. Blonder. For if life has taught me anything, it's that you never know what will happen.