June 15, 2010

Pride, tears and spilled milk

Not quite 25 years ago, my life changed.

Up until then, I had been queen bee around my house. And after eight years as an only child, I was pretty used to it. Just me and my parents. We were a unit. The Three Musketeers. It worked.

And then, suddenly, there was this loud, screaming thing in the next room. And my fellow Musketeers were spending an awful lot of time with it, and not nearly enough time playing Chutes & Ladders with me.

I remember asking my mother, "WHEN is he going to STOP CRYING?" Like, he's cute and everything, but really? With the crying?

Really. Not only was he there to stay, he was moving into my room. The fact that I got the big room upstairs all to myself helped soften the blow. Sort of.

And so it went. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but the little loud screaming thing in my old bedroom at some point became my little brother.

And oh, how I loved and hated being his big sister.

  • He threw up on me.
  • I could no longer run around or make noise during what was now "nap time."
  • I believe I've mentioned the screaming, which didn't seem to stop as he got older.
  • He learned to climb stairs and discovered the joy of raiding his big sister's bedroom. My Barbies and then my CDs had never known such abuse.
  • He eventually developed an opinion about which Saturday morning cartoons we should watch, and it was useless to try to argue.
  • He once dumped a whole half-gallon of milk on the kitchen table while I was watching him, just because he knew I'd have to clean it up.
  • A whole new litany of heretofore unknown phrases came into play: "He looks up to you; set a good example," "You have to share!" and "Oh, what could he possibly do to your {doll/book/game/CD/blanket/puppy}?" (The latter was followed shortly by the object being, of course, completely destroyed.)
  • He knew he could hit and kick me with relative immunity, because I would get the "you're older, he doesn't know any better" speech, and I couldn't hit him back.
  • When he was mad at me, he told me I was ugly. "He doesn't know what he's saying, and no, you can't say it back. You're older and you know better."

He was kind of a serious pain in my ass.

But then: His face would light up when I came into the room, and he would smile big and run and hug me.

He called me "Non" until he was about four, because he couldn't quite manage "Shannon." I loved hearing him call "Nonnnnnnnnnn!" and knowing he just wanted his big sister.

He found me hilarious. He had the orneriest smile, and whenever I tried to make him laugh, he always, always obliged. When I took some lettuce, threw it in the air and told him it was a tossed salad, he laughed about it for a week. (In fact, he still finds that funny, for some reason.)

And he trusted me. When he was about four, he ate some pills, thinking they were candy. He was terrified to go to the hospital to be checked out, and hid under his covers, refusing to listen to our parents. It wasn't until his big sister came in, gave him a big hug and explained what was going to happen that he knew everything would be OK.

When we weren't trying to kill each other, we were buds.

(How 'bout those glasses, eh?)

Since there are eight years between us, you can't really say we grew up together. We were always in completely different phases of life: When he was in grade school, I was in high school. When he started junior high, I was already in college, and by the time he turned 15, I was already living on my own, with a full-time job, in the "real world."

In a lot of ways, we had separate childhoods. And in a lot of ways, his was a rough one. He had a lot of ups and downs, and for a majority of them, I wasn't around.

And I regret that. I wish I'd been there. I moved away, I got married... I was living my own life, it was bound to happen, and we still connected--when things got really bad he still, miraculously, sometimes sought my advice--but... I wish I'd really been there.

That's why I was so honored that, this past weekend, he wanted me there.

At 24 (almost 25), he has turned some major corners. He has a beautiful daughter. He owns a home. He's becoming the responsible adult we all knew he would become...eventually. :)

And this weekend, he passed another major station on the Adult Train: He became a husband.

I wish I could put into words how I felt watching him go through this milestone. He was a little boy playing dress-up (albeit still in shorts, on the beach), saying those important words and making promises that were so adult. It was absurd!

But then, it just seemed to fit him so naturally. He was a father, still learning but clearly tuned in to his daughter's needs. He was a man, so clearly smitten with his new bride that it was impossible to miss the love and respect and joy and excitement that eminated from both of them. And he was calm, taking in everything, confident that all the details would come together and that, even if it didn't, it would be OK.

As a big sister who still usually sees him as a "little" brother, it was amazing to see.

He's created his own little family, even as he's still a part of mine.

Brittany: Welcome to our family, and thank you for making my brother so happy. I can't wait to get to know you better. (And I'm still really sorry I accidentally dumped Diet Coke on your wedding dress. Oopsie. But it's probably best you know now that I'm really klutzy. You may want to wear old clothing to Thanksgiving.)

And to my stinky little brother: Wow. I'm so proud of you and the man you're becoming. You'll probably always sneak up behind me and goose me, and I'll probably always want to punch you a little. And I'm still a little bitter about having to clean up that milk.

But I'm so glad you're my brother. And I can't wait to see what's next for you. Whatever it is, I know you can handle it. And if you ever find you can't, I hope you know you can always call me, even if it's only to laugh again at my stupid tossed salad remark.

Oh, and also, I love you.


(More pictures of the family vacation-slash-wedding to come!)

7 backtalk:

Sarah said...

This is one of the sweetest posts I've ever read. You brought some tears to my eyes, and I don't know you or your brother! (okay, so this has been a hormonal/emotional day for some reason, but still).

Congrats to your growing family!

Maura said...

This is beautiful, Shannon. *wipes tears* Good stuff. :)

Everyone should have a brother.

Kendra said...

Shannon, this is a beautiful post. You have put into words so eliquently what all big sibs feel about their little sibs. Amen.

Ky • twopretzels.com said...

I DO know you and I have to tell you, I'm sitting here crying.

Dear friend, FABULOUS post. I certainly hope that you will somehow get this in front of Scott.

Well done. Well done.

65 Roses for Marcia said...

Your mama is gonna sob! Very nice Shannon, you're a great big sis! And I'm sure a great SIL, even tho it didn't start out so great (diet coke on dress)...

Sarah W said...

Awww! I loved this! I think I'm getting to be a total softy as I get older, because you made me tear up! My little brother is getting married next year, so this is close to home.

All the best to your bro & his new wifey!

wrestling kitties said...

This was SO SO SWEET. Seriously, I read this twice because it was funny, kind and from the heart. Loved it.

My siblings are 8, 10 & 13 years younger than me (apparently after me neither of my parents with their new spouses could even think about having children....because I must have been so awesome) and SO much of what you wrote resonated with me and my feelings of having younger siblings. Especially growing up having seperate childhoods and regretting not being around for them. I had to share a room with my younger sister for a long time also and though it could be frustrating sharing toys, or having her mess up my stuff, or having her want to be with me and follow me around...like you they look up to you and trusted you and that feeling is incredible.

Seriously, this post just melts my heart.

Congrats to your brother and I am so happy you got to share in that special day!

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