Brotherly Love

I have an older brother. I do. His name is James… or Jim… or Jimmy. Whatever! Somehow, shockingly enough, he has managed to escape mention in all my scribbling. I know; miracles never cease. But, I have realized my error and his time has come.

My brother is five years my senior and is adopted as well. Our relationship can best be summed up by a comment he made upon seeing me for the very first time: “Ew! She’s splotchy. Take her back!” I was three weeks old. Thank you, dear brother. I love you too. From that point onward, like good respectable siblings, our relationship has fit quite nicely into that of the love/hate variety.

Memories are funny things, but my first tangible recollection of my brother comes from the age of three or four. I was in preschool or church daycare or a location of some sort where one would drop off a rug rat for an extended period of time during the day. I was playing with blocks … standard, bland, no-color blocks … and before me a masterpiece of architectural genius had taken shape. Indeed! I am quite sure it was the most proficient and skilled block creation of its time. I was admiring the grandeur of my own work when my brother came into the room. He had been sent by the parental units to fetch me out to the car where they waited. I refused to leave, of course. I vaguely recall a tussle of some sort before my dear, caring brother demolished my wonderment of blocks in one swift kick. I don’t know if “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is an accurate description for my response, but there was kicking and screaming involved as I was dragged out to the waiting vehicle. I think memory number one slides quite safely into the category of hate.

“Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero.” ~Marc Brown

Fast forward a few years (nine or ten) into the future and we find me spending my very first year at boarding school. I was in seventh grade and my brother was a senior who would soon be graduating. There was an unwritten rule when my father finally gave in to my pleadings to attend Rift Valley Academy. Quite simply put – I was to leave my brother alone. Obviously he did not like the idea of having his scrawny little sister following him around campus and, if memory serves me correctly, I was happy to oblige. I had friends to make and things to do. The few times I do remember needing to speak to him I had to deal with the gaggle of giggling junior high girls (my friends) who would follow closely behind me as though being with me was enough of a satisfactory reason to justify their need to get close to the cute senior boy. (As his sister it took years for me to agree that my brother was, without a shadow of a doubt, a bona fide hottie.) No wonder he didn’t want me around. Still, there was a day when his reaction to my presence shocked even me. In the first month or two of school I decided on some random whim to tryout for the junior high basketball team. I had rarely set hands on an actual basketball, but that wasn’t going to stop me … and, like any other sport I where I placed my effort, I made the team. With genuine excitement and complete disregard for the fact that I was supposed to avoid my brother I ran up to him as he made his way to the dining hall for supper and boldly announced my news. Without hesitation he picked me up into a bear hug (in front of all his friends) and proclaimed that he was proud of me. It had never occurred to me that his opinion mattered, but it obviously did because I will never forget the way I felt that day. Love category? I think so.

My brother and I had a lot of adventures together. We played one-on-one soccer in the backyard. When he started playing rugby I was taught the appropriate way to tackle someone much larger than myself with surprising effectiveness. He knocked out one of my loose front teeth by tripping me as I ran down the tile hallway of the house we lived in at the time. My face connected with the floor and out came the tooth. Bereft of snow we would wait until the dry season and “sled” down the dry grassy hill behind our house on pieces of cardboard with nothing at the bottom to stop us except the trees of the forest. He taught me how to use a slingshot and one year, in the States, he joined the wrestling team and would hide behind the furniture waiting for me to come home from school so he could pounce on me and try out some new hold. Trust me, there is nothing quite like walking in the door to your home and finding yourself stuck in a half nelson by someone literally four times your size before you have even put down your backpack. He laughed, as the only witness, to the surprise of some perverted stranger who pinched my butt in a random German train station, as I spun around and whapped the crap out of the guy with the notebook I was using to sketch some buildings nearby. I was twelve and I think he found some pleasure in knowing I could take care of myself and that he had contributed fully to how tough I became.

Strangely enough, people still wonder how I ended up such a tomboy.

There did come a day when Jim exhibited some concern about my tomboyishness. The parental units and I had just come back to the States. Jim was already here in college and apparently he decided I needed help in becoming more girlie because, for my fifteenth birthday, he gave me perfume and a gold bracelet. Still wary of make-up at the time, it was at least ten months later (after I had grown almost six inches and literally transformed from tomboy to womanly tomboy) before I appreciated his gift and the meaning behind it. A few months after receiving that gift my brother was married. It was a difficult time for me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share him.

We are both adults now and we both have kids. He has three. I have two. Funny thing – two out of his three are girls. I’m raising boys. Go figure. My brother lives about seven hours north of me. We see each other rarely and don’t talk to each other or even email as often as either one of us probably should. Like many missionary kids we are content in our independence and do not feel the need to update each other on every moment of our lives. It is no excuse, really, merely a habit born of being continents away from each other for a number of years. Through it all though, we are still siblings and our relationship continues to follow very much along the love/hate path.

“To the outside world we all grow old, but not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” ~Clara Ortega


  1. The cosmic irony of your children being boys and his being girls.... As for growing up, we do strange things to each other when forced into proximity. It's hard to consciously fight otherwise natural forces.

  2. You should have my brother meet your brother. My older brother is the most ruthless person I know yet, oddly, it's one of the things I love most about him. Weird, huh? We're not exactly close, but I'm working to change that. It never hurts to be close to brilliant people, does it?

  3. "She's splotchy. Take her back!"

    Hilariously typical of a child's response to someone new....


  4. An exwife of mine had thrown her younger brother out the second story window, in jest, lol, and broke his arm and leg I think, just sporting.

    As a child very young, with a little brother 4 years old, I was left to baby sit, he wobbled off to see a flag at a catholic school down the block, parents returned, no kid! What is a brother to do? I got the worst spanking of my little life over that, never have forgotten it. Kid was okay, in those days a kid could do that, not today of course.

    No wonder you were a tomboy.


"Stranger, if you passing meet me and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?" ~Walt Whitman


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