It’s amazing how our minds work. Some memories stand out – so vivid, so real, that you feel as if you’re right back in the moment. While others, no matter how many details our parents share with us, are just too far out of reach.

I have several vivid memories of my childhood with my brother. Four years older than me, we didn’t always get along. I was constantly following him and his friends around and he was perpetually searching for new and creative ways to ditch me.

My grandfather once told me, “If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t tease you.” Well, if this is the truth, then my brother really loved me! He teased me mercilessly. Here are just a few of the memories that stand out most.

The Day I Got Stitches

I was six, my brother was 10. It was a warm spring afternoon. We had gone for a walk up our street and had just returned home. I was wearing my favorite jacket – a shiny white, baseball st‌yle coat with snap buttons and a huge Minnie Mouse decal on the back. It matched my Minnie Mouse bicycle.

The warm sun was beating down on us and I had rolled up my sleeves to cool down. Unfortunately, the tight wristbands of the jacket got stuck just above my elbow crease. I couldn’t get the coat off. My brother saw me struggling and offered to help.

As he sat on our concrete front steps, I turned away from him, stretching my arms backward. He grabbed onto the outside of my sleeves and began to pull. As he pulled back I pulled forward. I felt the tightness around my elbows start to release. At the same time, my brother’s grasp released. He let go of my jacket. The momentum sent me flying forward onto the stone walkway. I didn’t have time to put my hands down – my chin took the brunt of the impact. A trip to the ER and some liquid stitches and the scar is barely visible.

I looked at my brother a little differently that day – shocked, hurt, confused. I asked him why he had let go and his answer was this: “I wanted to see what would happen.”

Wrestling

One of mine and my brother’s favorite pastimes was wrestling one another. Our arena was the basement floor. The space was finished but had minimal decorative appeal. A burnt orange pull-out couch and a brown and tan thatched carpet are what I remember most. The carpet offered no cushion – as if someone simply glued it directly to the cold, concrete floor. Why we chose such an unforgiving space to wrestle is beyond me. Probably because the basement door closed and my mom couldn’t hear the banging, yelling, and crying from upstairs.

It was only a matter of time before one of us got hurt and it was always me. I specifically remember one incident that left me with a dime-size scab on my nose. I had somehow maneuvered myself onto my brother’s back, while he was down on all fours. He chose to flip me over his head in order to shake me. I landed straight on my face – the rough carpet giving me a rug burn down the length of my nose. I’m sure I cried and ran to tell my mother.

A few days later, the burn had scabbed over leaving me embarrassed to go to school. I opted for a fluorescent orange full-face winter mask to cover it up. To this day, I question my logic.

And why did I always agree to wrestle when my brother asked? Didn’t I know I would get hurt? I’m pretty sure I know the answer. It was one of the only times he paid attention to me. It may have been the only time he actually asked me to play with him. I craved his attention and approval – even if it meant getting bruised and battered in the process.

I Knew He Loved Me When…

I can see that I’ve painted a pretty dismal picture of my brother, but don’t be confused. Though he had a hard exterior and a special way of torturing me, I also knew he loved me. Sure, there were countless times I doubted it but as I grew older, I was able to recognize small signs that he truly cared and felt responsible for keeping me safe.

My first memory is of high school. Because my brother dropped out during his junior year, we only spent a short time in the same school. I was an awkward freshman, nervous about finding my classes, remembering my locker combination, and being bullied by the upperclassman.

I specifically remember one girl that had it out for me. I was friendly with a boy that she liked. Because I was younger and they were both older, she couldn’t handle the fact that he might actually choose me over her. It secretly made me feel good to have the attention of an older boy. But that elation was quickly replaced with terror as the girl pushed me in the hallway and threatened to wait for me outside after the last bell rang.

I was sure my day had come. I avoided her at all costs, even arriving late to class because I took the long way around the school. I always waited for a teacher to be outside before exiting the building. But one day, my friend told me that I no longer had to worry about this girl bothering me, that my brother had taken care of it. Apparently, learning who my brother was was enough to deter her from bothering me anymore.

My brother had a reputation in the school of being kind of a bad boy. He basically put the word out that anyone who had a problem with me had a problem with him.

Maybe it wasn’t the most obvious sign of affection or even the greatest example, but for my brother, it was his way of offering me a safety blanket against the cruelty that high school can dish out. Whenever we attended parties, he was with me. He made sure I made it home safely and that no one bothered me. He used to tell me, “I’m the only one allowed to bother you.”

To This Day…

To this day, I know my brother is there for anything I need. We don’t talk often as life, work, and kids consume our worlds. But he’ll randomly send me a message telling me he loves me or wishing me a good day.

We may not be close, but we’re family. I will always cherish our childhood memories  – the good and the bad. Because our past has helped shape the relationship we share today and for that, I am thankful.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Annie Spratt on Unsplash