In honor of today being my big brother's 29th birthday, I decided it would be apropos to write about him. Oh, brother...
I believe we had a typical childhood relationship. We're 21 months apart, so close enough to play together all the time and fight like riled up roosters in a cock fight, but far apart in age enough to have some of our own interests. I didn't realize it at the time, but in retrospect, I think I wanted to be just like him. I did everything he did - soccer, swim team, piano lessons, playing in the school band, then marching band (yes, we were dorks), and tech crew in high school (a small disclaimer here: at our school, tech crew was not the thing super dorky kids did - evidently, that's how it is at other schools, but for us, tech and drama seemed to be the cool kids - even the football team captains and cheerleaders tried to get into the drama scene, and all the techies were best friends with the drama kids, etc - or maybe I'm just projecting to try and feel like less of a total loser...).
But my brother was a genius. He never tried at school and always got perfect scores on everything. He had to start taking college-level math outside of our high school by the time he was a sophomore, because he'd already finished all the math our school could provide. I, on the other hand, did every assignment, studied for hours every night (in retrospect I wonder how I even found things to study for hours every night in high school), and made close to perfect grades, but just not quite as good as his. He could play any instrument without learning - just picked it up, messed around on it, and suddenly, he knew how to play the trumpet. Or the saxophone. Or guitar. (Although, he was also known as "the cancer of the band," because he had a terrible work ethic (I later learned it was due to an injustice committed by the director and a resulting lack of desire to try) and would "infect" those who sat in a growing radius around him) I, however, struggled through 14 years of flute lessons and never got above a mediocre skill level. In our parents' eyes, he was flawless - the perfect kid. He'd go out on weekends and get drunk, but they were oblivious to that. I stayed home on weekends and lamely attempted to practice my flute or study more for that up-coming physics test. But to them, he could do no wrong.
Clearly, this made me hate him.
In an irrationally thought out plan to make us get along, my parents decided that, when he got his first car (a beat-up '92 Pontiac LeMans, fondly known as the "LePimp"), he would drive me to school every day. This wouldn't have been too much of an issue if we were normal kids, but, of course, we weren't.
Remember, I have the anxiety disorder. Part of that is a physical inability to be tardy. I am ALWAYS at least 15 min early to everything. Even arbitrarily established timelines for myself - like grocery shopping. I'm always 15 min early to the grocery store. So every morning in high school, I was up 3 hours before school started, with plenty of time to get ready, eat breakfast, study some more, and... wait. Anxiously, I'd sit at the bar in the kitchen, on the verge of vomiting, as the minute hand ticked closer and closer to 7:55 (the time the first bell rang). I'd BEG my mom to go make sure he was awake. By 7:45, I'd be running in and out of the bathroom, dry heaving, while she casually made her way downstairs to try and get him out of bed. FINALLY, he'd come upstairs. At 7:53. AND THEN HE'D WANT TO EAT BREAKFAST.
At this point, I would be having a complete mental and physical breakdown, holding back tears, hyperventilating, shaking uncontrollably, sometimes even throwing up. By the time he got into the car and drove us to school, we inevitably ended up pulling up right as the second bell (the TARDY bell) rang. I'd run frantically to my classroom, choking back sobs and apologizing profusely to my teachers, trying to explain that it wasn't my fault. He, on the other hand, would saunter in casually, likely getting high-fives and pleasant greetings from his teachers, who all also thought he was the greatest thing on Earth.
After about six months of this, every single day, my mom finally agreed that the 20 lbs I'd lost through these daily panic attacks was enough. She demanded that he get up earlier and get me to school on time. He seemed willing enough to cooperate.
Little did I know, he had a revenge plan.
As if it wasn't bad enough to be carted around in the LePimp. He had used duct tape to write out "Le PIMP" across the back windshield. He'd torn out the floorboards to re-wire the car so he could string Christmas lights along the doors, windows, hood, and trunk. He built a gigantic sub-woofer box that took up the entire backseat. The key was broken off in the ignition. The passenger side window didn't roll down. The back hatch didn't really close all the way. Everyone in town knew the car. He was proud of it (wearing his "picnic tablecloth" shirts - the most God-awful bright plaid shirts imaginable - the school had a dress code and you had to wear a button up collared shirt - no color requirements, though, unfortunately - to school every day). I was just mortified.
But no. His revenge came swiftly one morning. We got in the car (at 7:40!!), and he pulled out a tape to stick into the tape deck. He had the hint of an evil grimace on his face, as if to say, "she thinks she won. Little does she know." The tape started.
A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN...
Okay, I thought, I can handle a mixed-tape. Is this all he's got??
Snow's Informer came to an end, and I was excitedly curious to hear what came on next. That's really not a bad song. Kind of annoying, and it has a way of getting stuck in your head (an ear worm, as the Germans so graphically describe it) for days on end, but the next song might be catchy enough to prevent it from sticking.
A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN...
Oh no. What's going on? Okay, surely he just made a mistake and put it on there twice. He's not very technology-savvy (a clear attempt at denial, since he is, in fact, the most technology-savvy person I know).
A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN...
Oh dear Lord. Somebody just kill me now.
Yes, he'd done it. He'd made an ENTIRE mixed tape with ONLY Snow's Informer on it. Both sides. So we could listen to it non-stop on the way to and from school, every single day. And as if that weren't bad enough, thanks to the catchy rhythm and my inability to understand any of the words, every second of every day NOT spent in the car was still spent mentally stumbling through the song. A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN!!
This went on for months. At least three months. The only song I heard while in a car was Snow's Informer. His revenge had been exacted, and it was sweet indeed.
At some point, we came to an understanding. He woke up a little earlier and got me to school before I was late. And I didn't whine to Mom every day about him. Although we never spoke a single word to each other in the car, we didn't try to kill each other, either.
And finally, for my 16th birthday, my parents got me my own car. Well, technically, they got my mom a car and gave me the old '93 Nissan Altima. My brother was beyond angry about this (the Altima WAS a pretty awesome car, after all), but once again, he came out on top. He got a brand new '00 Jeep Cherokee, exactly how he wanted it, when he graduated from high school, because he was such a genius and dozens of colleges were literally throwing money at him to go to their school. I drove that Altima over 80,000 miles, in spite of it being totaled twice, until 2008. As soon as I had my own car and was able to drive myself to school (on time, no less!), we instantly became friends. It was like there was no reason to hate each other anymore. That was probably the best birthday present I ever got - not because it was a car for my 16th birthday, which is clearly an awesome present, but because it meant the beginning of a real, healthy, adult-like friendship with my brother.
Here we are, years later, still getting along. So Brian, on your birthday, I just have one thing to say to you:
A LICKY BOOM BOOM DOWN!!!