The art of older brothers
When I started Gretchen’s story, I knew I had to include older brothers to the mix. We write what we know, from what we’ve experienced. That’s why the story was inspired from parts of my life, just added the perspective of a character who shared similarities to mine…but also was her own person.
Being the baby sister to older brothers makes for a unique experience. There is a certain dynamic that is built between older brothers and younger sisters. When you are younger, the younger sibling is the most annoying creature in the world. And if you happen to be the younger sibling, it is your sworn duty to the world to be the most annoying creature possible.
I’m a daddy’s girl. He named me after a Waylon Jennings song. I love being my dad’s little buddy, and I know he is Team Amanda. If Joe and Jared refused to include me one time too many, well, that’s when I would go tell dad. I may or may not have embellished the story–depending on how mean they were or how frustrated I was with them.
One day, Joe and Jared brought me over to them. I was excited to be included in their games. They were playing with Jared’s new tape deck and asked me questions. One was, “Amanda, do you tell on us to dad to get us into trouble?”
The looks on their face were triumphant. Jared pressed stop on the device and then they rewound the tape until I could hear the question and answer back.
Foiled. Tricked by older brothers.
That was nothing–NOTHING–on the adoption papers they made for me.
Many older siblings have told younger ones the story that the youngest were adopted. It’s a common trope to show the babies of the family that they weren’t loved (which is so ridiculous now as an adult because of so many kids that are adopted and so loved, and that giving up a child is an act of love, too…but I digress. Four year old me did not get that concept).
My brother’s are devious in their plans. Cunning. I was a younger sibling that knew they were out to trick me. So they concocted a sure-fire way to show me once and for all that I was an unwanted child.
Without my knowing, they used the old typewriter to type up adoption papers. They signed them with a flourish. Then Jared added the pinnacle detail. He used a quarter under the paper and rubbed the paper on it to make a seal. So when I said, “That’s not real”, he could point to it and say, “But it has the official seal.”
Then the tears fell. I sobbed to my parents. Why didn’t they tell me? Why would someone not want me? Oh the pain!
My mom had to explain that she remembers giving birth to all three of us (while shooting daggers with her eyes towards my brothers), and that I looked just like so-and-so in the family.
To this day, all we have to do is mention “adoption papers” and Joe and Jared look at each other and snicker.
Why do I love them?
I remember Joe chasing me around the house. I have no idea why. We were bored, probably. He caught me in the living room, tackled me to the wood floor, flipped me on my back, sat on my chest with his rear dangerously close to my face and called out, “Oh, no! I got a big one brewing!”
Or them tackling me to the ground, pinning me down as my legs pinwheeled and they would slooooooooowly start to drop spit towards my face then sluuuuuuuuuurp it back up as I screamed. This always seemed to happen on afternoons where Joe would be in charge after mom left for work and before dad got home from his.
It wasn’t all torture, though. Older brothers were great at teaching me how to kick and throw footballs, how to tackle (at the ankles, especially if you are small), which resulted in a lot of ruined jeans full of holes and mud from the back yard that sometimes took forever to dry from a rainfall. Jared even got me to stop being afraid of blocking a soccer ball by making me stand still as he kicked a ball at me as hard as he could. I used my hands to cover my face as the ball smacked into my thigh. I screamed, fell down holding my leg, and when I hobbled into the house, there was a nice pentagonal patterned bruise forming on my leg.
Joe taught me to ride my bike when my legs grew long enough to reach the pedals. He would hold me steady at the top of the hill and gently push me down so I could practice how to balance.
Best of all, in the winters after dinner, when our parents shooed us outside to play in the snow, they would have me sit in the blue saucer. Then Joe would spin around once…twice…three times and release me down the hill–the fastest way to sled. It’s probably why I love going fast and riding roller coasters to this day.
Sure, there were a lot of fights and shenanigans (more of those later), but I did have fond memories growing up with two older brothers.
Gretchen’s older brothers have a few similarities to mine, but I gave them personalities that fit better with a story. My brothers may find parts that sound like they were inspired by our childhood–and they were. They are some of my favorite scenes of the book because it makes me think of them. Good, bad, or otherwise, they really are the best brothers a girl could ask for.