My Blog

My Blog

13

As the only redhead in my immediate family my brother Warren knew how to annoy me. The milkman is your father, he’d say at a time when milk was delivered in glass bottles and left on Long Island doorsteps. You were born in a pumpkin patch. Mom and Dad left you out in the rain and you rusted.

At six years old, each of his comments were answered with fast-flowing tears that covered my freckled face, by my wails to my parents to make him take those horrible statements back, and by my pleas for him to confess it was all a lie.

My brother was two years older than me, which as young children felt like a valley too wide for Evel Knievel’s motorcycle to leap.

When I approached double digits, I sought revenge by doing rotten things and telling my parents it was his fault. As a cute little girl with chubby cheeks my brother got blamed. Vindication for me was more electrifying than Donny being a little bit rock n’ roll, and sweeter than Marie being a little bit country.

Turns out, Warren would have the last word, although not intentionally. Sometime around my eleventh year and his thirteenth, I fell out of the family station wagon while it was moving slowly along a suburban side street. I rolled onto the sidewalk, jumped up, and chased the car. As I ran, I saw my brother turned around in the middle seat, looking out the back window, and laughing. Eventually Mom noticed my frantic pursuit and stopped the car. To this day, as a joke, I maintain he pushed me out of the car, a gigantic untruth that my brother never bothered to refute.

Then, sometime around my fourteenth year and his sixteenth, he was training to be a volunteer EMT. He practiced a fireman’s hold on me, flipped me, and broke my wrist. That’s when I realized he was more man than boy, and my blame game had grown as tedious as the gas lines we waited on. I no longer felt pleasure by getting him in trouble. The valley between us was closing.

High school brought us closer together. When he was a senior and I was a sophomore, we each had something the other wanted. He had his driver's license and a car, and I had pretty friends. Amid Warren driving me and my friends around, and the commingling of our groups, we discovered something interesting. We liked each other. It was no longer a genetic obligation that we interact. We went to movies at the 99-cent theater, ate French fries and sipped cokes at the local diner, snuck into bars using fake IDs, and dated each other’s friends. I covered for him when he and his girlfriend spent long afternoons in his room with the door locked. He turned me on to Electric Light Orchestra and Monty Python. He taught me how to develop film in his darkroom.  

The valley between us has been closed for decades and we are the best of friends, although I still wish he would admit I wasn’t born in a pumpkin patch.

Happy birthday, bro. I love you.