Most people in the world today are completely oblivious to the fact that 31 years ago, somewhere in Eastern Europe, a world-changing event occurred – an event that had not been heard of before and never will occur again: the birth of a boy – my brother.
While you might feel as if this is not such a big deal – after all, perhaps other people have a brother that is 1943 days (or 46,632 hours or 2,797,920 minutes or indeed, 167,875,200 seconds) younger (give or take) – this particular brother was quite special. After a very eventful and totally clueless period to a 5 year old, mom came home, not in a van, with a small new package with a long, wide, pink strap all around it that… moved! What sort of alien invasion is this?
For the first week it had a sort of commercial feel to it because we had to return it once… was it defective? Off it went back to the hospital! But, he’s back shortly and here I go off the toddler bed!
By this time I found out he was my little brother and that I was going to have to care for him and share everything with him from now on! That’s when things got knocked into 12th gear!
The upsides of the downsides
A boy needs a playmate. Whatever you might think, and however brave, independent, self-sufficient, exclusive or spoiled you might be, if you’re a boy, you need a brother. Or a sister… but a brother. Period. Man, brothers are so cool – even though the first brothers in the history of the world did not get along, in most situations you grow to love them! And while, as a boy, you might feel like the new addition to the family takes away some of your rights, privileges and half of every piece of pie, candy, fruit, toy and mommy time, it is by no means a disadvantage. There are countless plus sides too if you know where to find them, and here are a few:
While the brother is younger than 3, you can pretty much blame everything that goes wrong, breaks, smashes or goes missing on him. As soon as you do it – willingly or by accident – if the parents find out, just put it all on him and you’re off the hook: he’s small, he dropped it, he didn’t know. You tried to help but was too late. And the great part? He won’t be able to speak up for himself!
Yes, you get less toys now because they are expensive and your brother needs to have some too, but here’s the good part: you always have a spare for every toy! Yes, that’s right, since this little bundle of joy showed up and started to walk and play, mommy buys everything in twos:
Two toy guitars, two wind-up cars,
two aeroplanes, two vintage trains,
two books, two cups, two hoops,
two police cars with light up roofs,
two kindergarten bags,
two guns with plastic mags,
two embossed plaster “pictures”
with two boys on a sled,
hurtling down a hill in winter
to hang above the bed.
And if you happen to break, smash, lose parts of or otherwise dismantle said toys – just swap them for your brother’s! He won’t tell. He doesn’t even know it’s broken! And if he hasn’t played too much with it, it’s like getting a new toy all over again. Bliss! Mom must have become aware of this revolutionary scheme because after a while everything came in twos but different colours for the two brothers.
Also, if you’re out and about, playing with your friends, near or far and your dad has conditioned said activity with the participation of your younger brother, you can always make him the butt of the jokes, the afterthought of every team pick, the target of all target practice and the blame for all the team losses. You’ll find favour with your friends that way. And if you find some activity for him to sit quietly in a corner and play alone, you’re in for a long afternoon of fun and games for free.
Just make sure he doesn’t want to go home and cry to mom and dad because he can’t cross the railway by himself. Sure, a dog can crouch and let the train just go over him but not your brother! Just let him have a go now and then on the swing hanging by the tree above the pond. Choose an easier difficulty on that computer game when you pass the Kempston joystick to him so he can have a decent go and he’ll be happy too. I mean, he needs to be grateful and go fetch apples, prunes, pears, quinces from the garden while the game loads from the tape – on the ZX or the C64!
The exile to the north
Life is good sometimes, school ends and there are those times when all your friends go to the seaside for the summer or visit exotic places in town such as a zoo, or they stay home and go through their holiday reading list (yeah, right!). However, your choice for the holidays is between:
stay home, get bored and feed the chicken,
make sure the strawberries don’t get eaten,
clean for the pigs, the dog, the cat
and make sure you don’t play with the ducklings in the bath,
…and drop them and break their leg,
you both get whisked off to the countryside
to spend the summer with grandparents in an all-nighter train journey
to eat fresh eggs from the chicken,
make sure all apples, peaches and prunes get eaten,
annoy the pigs, the dogs and the cat
…and when grandpa’s that level of drunk that makes him chase you through the entrances at both ends of the house, throw buckets of water at him from the well and laugh your heads off until he’s sober.
I’ll definitely take door number two!
That’s when the real perks of having said brother become obvious: Far less kids to play with there but far more hide-and-seek places at grandma’s house, especially after dark! Far more things to explore and toolboxes in the shed with old rusty metal tools, gadgets and screws from grandpa’s days as a mechanic at the factory. Far more weird bugs to discover and show him, a whole pond to yourselves to go around through the bushes… and no parents in sight! And should you get bored, drag grandma along to some neighbour, old lady friend, cousin or uncle, where free candy, fruit, not-quite-so-ripe-melons and even fresh chicken are guaranteed!
And if night should fall, the party of brothers moves inside, where grandma laughs and has as much fun as we do, at all the jokes, naughtiness, jumping, fake wrestling, crawling under the beds, throwing old corn cobs in the fire while the electricity’s out, the interminable snickering in the dark when you can’t sleep because you’re too wound up and riddles in the dark about a book with a wolf with claws mom gave you.
Who will run bare feet through the whole garden in the snow with you? Who will spend countless hours watching you dismantle and put together again countless laptops, computers, monitors, bikes, piece by piece, in hopes this time it will work? Or some wood and paper model aeroplane… and then scale the hills with you to launch it? Or a wooden boat to float on the flooded field?
Who will wait hours and hours while you type in code for a game from a magazine in hopes it will run or some 128K+ music in hopes it makes sense and plays? Or watch you play a game through completion twice, while awaiting his turn?
Who will watch the first ever knock off movie with you on a computer with a cracked screen and a cracked motherboard? Who will wake up at 5am to listen to your latest musical creation on a computer with no sound card?
Who knows all the inside jokes, movie references, even completely obscure ones from ages past? Who runs and notifies your parents when you’ve fallen 4 meters on to solid concrete, then years later suddenly gifts you a T-shirt that says in big, white letters: “Brother’s Keeper”?
Here’s to you, Gabi! Thank you for being a nuisance, troublemaker, companion, brother! Thank you for memories, for your friendship, endless hours of sharing our lives, countless times having my back and laughing at the same jokes over and over again. I’m simultaneously scared and proud to say you’re my little brother, and I wish and pray God’s riches and blessings on you for many, many years to come! Sorry for too many pictures!
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.
– Proverbs 17:17
I love you!