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Suburban Island

Happy Birthday Little Brother
Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2003, 8:46 a.m.

Question: What are little brothers all about?

What Did I Learn: Let the kid have the phone once in awhile.

Saturday was my brother's birthday. He is my only brother and he is my younger brother. This means that he suffered many of the indignities to which younger brothers are subject. When we were very young, he once got stitches in his chin because he couldn't follow along behind me fast enough in his little pedal-truck and took a tumble. I was so busy going about my big sister life that I didn’t even know he had hopped into his red metal truck and raced after me. It was the kid's first car accident. How was I to know he was following me? Yet, I felt pretty sorry about that. Guilt is often the lot of the big sister.

I also remember that when push came to shove my brother was always there. A bug on the wall at 2 a.m. – my brother would drag himself out of bed to kill it for me. He labored over every gift and sketched my graduation card which I still have stashed somewhere here in my files. He was a generous adversary - many hours were spent in playing the game LIFE and Monopoly because he was willing to bankroll me when all my game money was long gone. I will always appreciate these small things.

When my kids fight over the computer, I occasionally think of my brother. Although I would never admit it to them, compared to the telephone wars that were conducted at our house when I was a teenager, their quibbling is much more civilized. The phone battles at my house as a teen included at least one major instance of hair yanking (yes, I am the culprit!) and some occasional scratching (yup, me again, sigh). All of these activities were expressly forbidden by my parents- but it was worth the chance of punishment, as in those days there was no call waiting or second phone lines to be had. All phones had cords and were stationary – making the phone-hogging younger brother a sitting duck for a phone-seeking older sister who was waiting on important calls. I have to give him credit – he definitely held his own, maintaining possession of the phone even when the dramatic hair pulling incident occured. I picture that scene set to music - perhaps a few quick bars of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries for instance.

No soundtrack? At the time, I could provide a constant level of audio annoyance by the incessant repetition of a variety of basic inquiries and demands - are you off the phone?, you have to get off the phone, I need the phone, you've been on the phone too long, do you know how long you've been on the phone? I am surprised that he didn't put down the phone and indulge in some hair pulling of his own. He never did. Maybe he just didn't want to release his grip on the phone. It's amazing the annoyances sibling bring to bear on each other in the course of everyday living. We can laugh about it now but that's probably only because we don't have to share the telephone these days.

Yes, next to some of the telephone battles I fought as a teenager, the computer battles I referee here at my home today pale in comparison. Oh, there may be some half-hearted swatting and pushing of chairs and raised voices but the person who always gets the worst of it is me. Why? Because I have to listen to the drama and finally swoop down upon the offending parties with threats of a computer-less home. Ah, for a good old fashion brother-sister telephone battle of my childhood, which avoided parental involvement at all costs.

It seems upon reflection, that even then I knew how to make suburban life exciting.

And to my brother, I salute you on your birthday for your kindness, creativity, caring heart, and ability to hold on to the phone at all costs. Happy Birthday, kid!

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