For as long as I can remember I’ve always been most content surrounded by solitude. Every now and then I’ll get the urge to peek my head out of hiding, but for the most part the land of quiet and calm is a place I’d rarely leave if life didn’t force me to. When I was younger I definitely spent my fair share of time playing outside with the neighbors but when I think back to being a kid I mostly remember hanging out by myself. I’d watch television, play video games, look at my baseball cards, start wrestling federations with my action figures, listen to music, pretty much do anything always by myself. And I liked it like that for the most part. There were days, though, tired of my own company and probably after I’d played my 500th game of NHL ’94 for the week I’d be ready to go have fun with someone else. Sometimes I’d see my sister and brother, only a year apart in age (two and three years younger than me) playing and I’d find myself wishing that I could have the same fun together that they had. It wasn’t that they kept me out of the fun, they just knew how to play together without trying. I have a memory of my brother and sister riding their bikes up and down the walkway that was in our backyard. They weren’t that old, but they couldn’t have been more than three or four because I can remember my brother riding his blue and yellow three wheeler. I remember thinking to myself “Wait a minute? How did these two end up being friends and having fun without me. I thought we were simply supposed to be brother and sister or brother or brother. Aren’t the rules to eat together everyday and then stay out of each others way the rest of the time?” But I wanted in on whatever they had. Specifically, I wished I could have something more with my brother. Not that I had anything against my sister. She knows I love her, but let’s be honest, if I found it difficult to play with other kids in general, finding things in common with a girl at the time in my life was a concept I couldn’t even imagine.
It wasn’t jealousy I felt when I’d see them having fun together. Of all the character flaws I’ve ever had to deal with jealousy was never one of them. I just wanted to be better friends with my brother and I was never sure how to go about it. When you’re the bigger brother and you’ve got three years on someone you’re better than them at basically everything. If we played basketball he’d get frustrated when I’d kick his butt. When we played video games he’d get up and quit when it wasn’t close. I don’t blame him. I can remember playing my Dad in Double Dribble on the NES and being irate when he wouldn’t let me score. Sometimes, if I wanted my brother to stick around for a little while longer I’d have to half step it to keep him interested yet manage to do well enough at whatever it was we were playing to make sure I’d win. I think we were both smart enough to realize what was going on even if it was never said out loud but we both put up with it because somewhere deep down we both wanted time with each other. It’s just unfortunate that playing games was about the only thing we could think of to bring us together at the time. How else do kids spend their time playing together but sports or games? It’s not like we were going to grab a pitcher of Kool Aid and a bag of Doritos and catch up on life. Living in the same room didn’t leave much room for stories we weren’t already aware of anyway.
There was one night, though, where none of that mattered and the big brother/little brother dynamic ceased to exist. I can’t remember where we coming back from, probably basketball practice because I was in shorts, but when we got home it was night outside and it had been snowing. The snow wasn’t deep, maybe an inch or two, and one of us decided to run and do a jump stop on our patio so that we’d slide in place. Whoever it was must have done some serious sliding because in our minds the patio had basically turned into a hockey rink. My mom, dad, and sister went inside and my brother and I grabbed our hockey sticks and a ball from the garage. The garage door was the goal, the rink was a 12 x 12 patio, and if the ball bounced into the grass it was game over because neither of us were willing to step on a landmine hidden under the snow by our dog Pebbles. The game that night ended up being one of the memories of my brother that I’ll remember as long as I can remember things. All we did was play and laugh because neither one of us was any better than the other. Neither of us had much experience with hockey and the patio was so slippery under our feet that we would fall as soon as we tried to gain any speed. I remember looking at the street light coming down on to the patio and thinking how cool everything looked. Our backyard was a mix of gold from the street light and blue from the reflection of the garage siding bouncing on to the snow. Beyond that, I can’t recall many specifics. I mostly remember feeling happy that I was finally having fun with my brother without trying. Eventually, when my mom called us inside I recall a sense of deflation coming over me because I knew that night was over and that times like that didn’t always come around for me and Matt.
Nowadays, I still like the quiet but my brother and I have a much easier time finding time to laugh together. The awkward dynamic of big brother/little brother is gone and there’s no more competition. Somewhere along the the road we figured it out. And while I’m happy we don’t have to try so hard anymore, I’m glad it didn’t come so easy to us back then because if it had I wouldn’t have this story to tell.