there are four of them, the brothers in my life. and, mostly, back in the early days, it seems, we made like some sort of appendaged amoeba. i mean there were skinny arms and banged-up knees sticking out from wherever we were tumbling. but we were mostly one.
into the station wagon we fell, en masse. an elbow, maybe poking someone in the eye. a knee in someone’s rib. but little bottoms all lined up and squishing for a piece of seat.
same thing at lunch: into the bench we plopped to slurp our chicken noodle soup. and church, definitely in the pews at church, we were wiggly, squirmy, big-eyed bunch, a single serpentine.
i always was, still am, the only girl. i had my own terrain to struggle through. had no one in the house to learn the girlie ways from. once walked across a frozen tundra–or so it seemed that subzero afternoon, the wind against my neck–to sneak home my first palette of every-color shadow for my lids. then locked the door, up in my room, and tried to figure, just what the heck to do, and not get caught with baby blue smeared above my eyeballs.
the boys, though, were as much a part of me as my curly hair. even though i wasn’t oldest, i was, in ways, the big sister. i made mistakes before the others. i stirred some dust, slammed doors. i took care of them, sometimes. i cooked and made them little menus. when they were really little i dressed them up in all the baby clothes. i rocked the littlest one, once he came, didn’t want to lay him down. held his hand, the night my papa died. sealed our hearts forever.
as we grew, we’ve grown to scatter all across the country. and in other ways as well. we’ve got red states, blue states. one who flies a plane, and one who plays piano. one who soaks up everything he reads, and one who seems to master anything he touches.
he’s the little one above, the one i’m holding by the hand. the one i’m standing there beside, believing in him wholly.
he’s the one right now i am feeling mighty proud of. he is, you see, the one who’s always found his muse in making beauty with his hands: he paints, he drums, he cooks, he gardens. he sculpts, and crafts with wood. he also makes outrageous beauty with the words he puts upon the page.
it was right here, at this blessed table, that we read him many mornings. people asked me, who is that? who writes such lovely missives? who pierces all our souls with the way he cobbles thought, sculpts words into lasting pictures?
my little brother, now a man with sturdy hands, strong heart, he sat down to a keyboard, and wrote a tale of building me a bench. it was wise and clear and pure. it was rife with wit, like he is. and precise in every word–he wrote that the bentwood arm is made of cherry shaved in razor-thin slices “like prosciutto,” an image i will never lose.
it seems the world looked up and noticed. put his name high above his words, on the front page of a whole section of the newspaper. and readers by the dozens have been writing in, saying, oh, what blessed beauty.
i am the big sister who once held his hand, and tried to keep his toddling self from listing to the ground. he, along with all the brothers, once swept me down the wedding aisle, the wings to my great flight.
i believe now i am standing, looking up. my little brother, now a man, is off the ground, and soaring.
i couldn’t be more proud.
i am, after all these years, the big sister long believin’. only i am not alone. whole lot of folks now see what i saw. and i am, still, big sister beamin’.
do you have a brother, or two or three, or seven, who lift you off the ground? who make you laugh like no one else? who know you deep and deeper? or, do you have a big sister? did she, does she, believe in you? or is there someone else who’s taken on the task of reminding you when you teeter that you are something rather gorgeous?
if you’d like to read my brother’s story, i saved it here for you. it’s paired with one that i wrote, that you first read right here on the chair. bless all of you who found us in the paper, where a shining light beamed down on the big-eyed, beautiful boy i call my brother.
i just had to put up that scrumptious photo because it melts my heart. the tribune cut out our little heads and floated each of us inside our essays. but the whole picture was missing there, and it just seems essential.
sweet david, what a flight…..go now, my love, and write your way, past sun and moon and stars, the heavens and beyond are yours…