Brothers

Today is International Women’s Day, but I’ve got boys on my brain.  Particularly brothers.  Bratty brothers.

I know that brothers are bratty the world over, but having grown up with half-a-dozen of them, all older than me, I can tell you that brothers who grow up in the country have avenues which let them exercise a unique brand of brattiness.  Albert has told me that he can tell by the way I react to teasing that I grew up with brothers.  Incidentally, Albert is five years older than me and was raised with three little sisters.

My brothers and I played together, but it was with Tonka trucks and tractors in the dirt.  The functions of hostess, guest and kitchen help at tea parties all fell to me.  We pushed dinky cars along the linoleum kitchen floor, but the burden of Ken and Barbies’ marital bliss fell solely on my little shoulders.

One day, they persuaded me up to the roof of the tool shed.  My voice made little squeaky protests and my legs trembled with every step up the shaky aluminum ladder, but step by step, they coaxed me up on to the roof.  The view from the top was glorious.  And absolutely terrifying.  My screeching and bawling fetched our mother from the house and earned a proper tongue lashing for each of the boys.

They convinced me to call my pet rabbit Zubick.  I agreed because it was a fine, dignified name.  It sounded like the name of a king or a lord out of the magical otherworld of Narnia.  Imagine the disgrace and dishonour I suffered on behalf of my bunny when I found out that he was named after a scrap metal and steel yard in London.

My first pet rabbit, Zubick.

Albert and his brother Peter were even meaner to their little sisters.  They were playing in the garden one day.  I never heard which one of the boys cooked up the scheme, but they picked long, green, fiery-hot chili peppers and gave them to their sisters as green beans.  The unsuspecting little girls bit and chewed.  Then they ran screaming to the house and drank copious amounts of milk while the scallywags in the pepper patch laughed themselves silly.

I was eight and my brother Frank was about thirteen when he took this picture of our cat, Iker.  We sat crouched in the grass and Iker sat outside the barn door sunning himself.  All was still as he posed tranquilly for his photo shoot.

“Now, Frank, take the picture now!” I said.

But he shook his head and waited.  I grew impatient, wondering why he was passing up such a perfect shot.  Then Iker closed his eyes and opened his jaws for a huge, gaping yawn and Frank clicked the shutter.

How he was able to predict that yawn, I’ll never know, but I was less than thrilled with his choice of pose with which to immortalize Iker.  I may have started screeching again.  Less than ten years later, Frank died.  Next Tuesday, the thirteenth of March will mark nineteen years since he’s been gone, but I’ll always have a tiny bit of his spirit in this photo.

For all the teasing, rough-housing and grief that they put me through, I grew up with a sort of hero-worship for my brothers.  There was not a girl in the world worthy of a date with any of them.  And when I was a teenager, I never dated a boy as tall, dark, good-looking, smart or all-around cool as my brothers, nor did I expect to.

Brothers.  They’re noisy; they tear their clothes, break things and get stuck in the mud.  I used to think that boys with their mischievous tendencies had a huge disadvantage to girls when it came to obedience and proper behaviour before God.  I’m glad to know now that he intentionally made boys exactly the way they are with all their rowdiness and hellery (sorry; I still have trouble dissociating the two).  We need rowdy boys to defend us in a rowdy world, and I wouldn’t trade my memories of them for anything.

I won’t speak for Albert’s sisters.

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