While I enjoyed playing with my sisters when I was young, admittedly there was nothing quite as exciting as playing with my brothers. Everything was more fun with them. While my sisters played with dolls, my brothers and I explored the woods lining the shores of the lake on the outskirts of our neighborhood. We encountered snakes, skunks, deer, and armadillos. We fired BB guns using our homemade targets for practice. We dug a five-foot deep hole in our backyard, the beginnings of a tunnel into new and unexplored worlds. We built treacherously dangerous tree forts in the soft limbs of our silver maples. And I will never forget the intricate fortress my brothers designed from brick on the corner of the house and the sign they erected outside the walls of their fort, reading:
"No Girls Allowed"
Naturally, I did not appreciate this kind of disloyalty from them, so in due course they ratified the sign to:
"No Girls Allowed (except Dani)"
And I was pacified.
In the depths of our parents' basement, we invented space ships and discovered entire new galaxies together. Taking my mother's crocheted afghan blanket from our sofa, we spread it across overturned chairs, turned flashlights on underneath the blanket, and then turned the overhead lights off. The flashlights beamed through the knitted holes of the crocheted blanket, creating our own night sky and outer space world on the ceiling of our basement. No one opened my eyes or made my life more exciting than my brothers. And thus has always been the nature of our relationship.
As we grew older, the differences between our personalities and interests became more and more apparent. I remember the first time I broke into tears in front of my brother Ben. I was probably fifteen or sixteen at the time. These were not childish hurt tears. These were emotional tears of exhaustion and frustration, the kind of tears that bewilder men, the kind that only women can shed. Ben found me in my room where I was hastily packing for a late night dance workshop after an exceptionally long and exhausting day. He stood there awkwardly for a second as I sniffled and brushed tears off of my face. Finally, he asked, "Dani, are you okay?" I told him that I was just tired, but then I burst into tears and started sobbing all over again. He put his arm around me reassuringly. Everything would be all right. I'll never forget the pleased gleam that came into his eyes as he assumed his heroic knightly role for the first time in my life.
Last semester, after a long day, he and I were driving home late at night. It was past ten o'clock and I had a large assignment to complete before the next morning. I was exhausted and I didn't know how I was going to get all of my home work done. I broke down into tears as Ben drove me home. When we arrived at our house, he proceeded to fix me tea and dinner and then told me to calm down and focus on getting my assignment done. Everything was going to be okay. The same pleased gleam was in his eyes. Ben never missed a chance to fix things. And there was nothing he loved more than the opportunity to fix other people.
photo courtesy of Tif on deviantArt.com