Brother Christmas

This is a photograph that must have been taken in the very early 80’s. That’s my brother and me in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, amidst the pile of toys and treasure that Santa brought the night before. After thinking back on holidays past, and present, I realized just how much my brother has been a part of them. Growing up, he was my one constant companion, and until we diverged in adolescence we were quite close.

Like so many Ilagans, we have our flaws, and sometimes I think they were tailor-made to be the very things that antagonized the other the most, but somehow we managed to remain as close as brothers can. No one else has had the same exact experience of growing up – only my brother and I know what it was really like being raised in our home. Even Suzie, who in many ways knows more about me than my brother does, isn’t fully aware of what went on in the Ilagan house. That’s something only my brother and myself share. He is the one single person in the world who inhabited that childhood with me. Even our parents, who were there, can never really know what it was like for their kids. It is an unbreakable bond, a source of understanding that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. I suppose it’s the same for most brothers and sisters.

Every home is distinctive, each has its own quirks and foibles, and because of that no one other than the participants themselves ever has a real inkling of what really goes on. Most siblings have their growing pains, and like any two brothers close in age we had ours. At times adversarial, competitive, cruel, and mean – and alternately kind, comforting, caring, and loving – the ties of one brother to another run the gamut of emotions. I counted on my brother for all of it, the good and the bad, and I gave just as well, and as badly, as I got. Through it all, though, we shared the love of one brother for another.

This was family. This was life. This was the way the world had always been, and will continue to be. We may get older, and hopefully a little wiser, but we’ll always be those two mischievous Ilagan boys, united in blood, bonded by circumstance, and joined in a history that cannot be rewritten. For that I am thankful.

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