My Baby Brother’s Birthday

It was a fall day, but it must have been warm enough to ride our bikes, because my brother and I were speeding down Lincoln and turning onto Romeyn as the wind whipped more leaves from the trees. The once-green canopy of maples and oaks littered the streets, sidewalks and lawns. Shiny black garbage bags lined the curbs and the cutting scent of wood smoke filled the air. Soon, it would be impossible to ride our bikes anywhere until after the winter thawed. We pedaled harder to outrun the advance of time. As we neared the bottom of Pershing Road, we skidded to a stop in the leaves. I remember the feel of their crunchy points, and the asphalt hidden beneath them.

A large log – the carcass of some decayed and fallen tree – rested at the bottom of the street. Intriguingly hollowed out by time and circumstance, it was like some fairy-tale object from the forest, incongruously dropped at the edge of the street. We moved closer to it and examined its soft, mossy exterior. As I peered into the dark hole, looking for some chipmunk or other woodland denizen to be asleep in its shelter, my brother kicked the other end of the log. A swarm (okay, maybe five or six) hornets or bees flew into my face. I got stung near my eye, which promptly began to swell itself shut, and the pain was horrendous. “Why did you do that?!” I screamed as I began pedaling furiously home. Such is the stuff of brothers – and it goes both ways.

Two babies could not have been born further apart in the calendar year. The most distant dates possible (February 25 and August 24) marked when my brother and I came into the world. Following such a pre-destined journey of diametrically opposed lives, we have lived up to those dates and are as different as two brothers could possibly be. Yet through it all, there was a closeness forged in the first part of our formative years, when some of us have our happiest memories, that can never be altered or taken away, no matter what paths we make and take.

Brothers know each other’s weak spots, their sensitive issues, their strengths, and their merits. They know how to get under each other’s skin like no one else, and they have the weapons of a shared childhood and history to wage the dirtiest wars imaginable. As such, I marvel that some of us maintain such good relationships. Ours is far from perfect, but the love at its core has seen us through the argumentative periods. He’s the only brother I have, and that’s something that neither of us has taken for granted.

On this day, I wish him a very happy birthday, and I count myself the luckier of us both because I get to have him as my brother.

{Background note: the featured photo here was taken on a summer vacation at, you guessed it, Disneyworld in Florida. Check out the matching t-shirts. I tucked. He didn’t. Opposites in every way.}

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