My Family (a long time ago)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Is In the Air

Spring is in the air. There’s about a million birds around my neighborhood, chirping away like they’re on "Bird Idol" and gathering stuff for their nests. The grass, while not what I’d call green yet, is starting to come alive. We’ve even had a couple of days where I didn’t need to wear a jacket! This being New England, those days were followed by temperatures in the 30’s again, which felt even colder after having been in the high 60’s or 70’s. The first day of spring was last Sunday, so of course we got some snow on Monday. I would have been surprised if it didn’t snow.

The biggest difference, however, has been the number of people outside. People are actually going outside for longer than it takes to get from the house to the car. One of my neighbors has two kids, a boy 5 and a girl 3. They’ve been riding around on their little bikes and using the swing set. I heard their voices the other day, looked out the window and saw them swinging up to the sky, having the time of their lives. They had their winter jackets and hats on but you would have thought it was the middle of July with the fun they were having. Just the fact that they could get to their swing set after all the snow we got was an accomplishment. 

My neighbor across the street has two boys, about 11 and 9. Those two have been outside playing basketball, street hockey and baseball. They’ve been tossing the baseball back and forth and they even have one of those pitch back devices so they can throw the ball at it and have it come back to them. What caught my attention one day was the older boy trying to make the younger one do something by throwing him to the ground, sitting on him and torturing him into doing whatever it was. Nothing like the love between brothers. Eventually, the younger and smaller one wiggled his way free, put a move on the older one and was suddenly on top. The older boy started yelling and screaming and about 30 seconds later their mother came out and told them to break it up and to stop making so much noise. The younger boy never yelled or screamed; he just worked his way out of the death hold his older brother had him in and came out on top. Did I mention that the younger boy is also smaller? Yet the older, bigger boy did all the yelling and screaming. As far as I’m concerned, justice was not done.

When one my older brothers got me in one of those choke holds when we were kids, I would try my hardest to get out of it and gain the advantage. I may have gotten lucky once or twice and escaped, but that just meant when they got me locked up again it was a little rougher and harder. However, I never stopped trying to get out of whatever hold they had me in. Why bother, why not just take it like a man and get it over with? Because it was kind of a measure of how “big” I was getting. If I could make them work to subdue me, that meant I was getting stronger. If I could escape, even for a few seconds, it meant I was getting tougher. I looked forward to the day when I could say that I beat them, that I got away fair and square, because that would mean I was on their level. All the kids I knew that had older brothers wanted the same thing – to be as strong as, as tough as, as good in sports as... as cool as their older brothers. Ultimately, what we wanted was to not be their little brother anymore, but to just be their brother.

However, we never got that victory as kids. Justice was not done. By the time we thought we were actually able to come out on top, our older brothers had moved on to bigger and better (maybe, maybe not) things. I’m sure they had long forgotten the times they knocked us down and pinned us to the ground, or held us in a head lock and gave us noogies, or grabbed us by the arms and gave us Indian rope burns. They probably even forgot they had given us the dreaded Cherokee Drag where they knocked us down and dragged us around by our legs, taking us across the driveway or street and into the bushes. In the summertime. With or without a shirt on our backs. Nothing like the love between brothers.  

But something happened to us little brothers, too. We also grew up and moved on to bigger and better things. Revenge? Nah, not for me. My older brothers were the ones giving me rides to my baseball games or somewhere else in their cool cars. While other kids got dropped off in their parent’s station wagon, I got dropped off in a souped up Olds 442 or a Chevy Camaro, tires spinning and tunes cranking. When I needed a ride, they were there. When I had one of those questions I just couldn’t ask Mom or Dad and knew my friends didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, they were there. I soon realized that when I needed just about anything, even some encouragement about something, they were there. At some point, I had crossed some unseen dividing line and was now on their side. Sure they still gave me a hard time, but it was different. Somehow I was no longer their little brother, and I may have still been their younger brother, but I was now just their brother.  

Now, some forty years later, we still make fun of each other at times and give each other a good ribbing when the opportunity presents itself. They may have laughed more then, but not anymore. Especially now that some of them are grandparents and proud card-carrying members of AARP!

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