Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another find from freshman year, for Jamie

I’ve never committed suicide (attempted and committed are two totally different conversations). I’m not an eccentric brother like Faulkner’s Quentin from The Sound and the Fury. But I do take my responsibilities seriously. I mean, as an older brother, I’ve got to look after and set an example to my siblings. If my sister gets an A- average, I’d dang better pull A’s. If my brother joins Scouts, I should be an Eagle. That’s not always an easy task to take on. Especially with Jamie. She was the Homecoming Queen. Head Cheerleader. Lead part in the school musical. Madrigals Most Valuable Singer. Student Council member. Drama Troupe President. Little sister.

The little sister is a tag-along, a tattletale, a brat. It is a nagging four-ply piece of toilet paper stuck on a clean pair of Levi’s. It’s a mindless Tickle-Me-Elmo. Somehow, the cute little eyes and soft hair always seem to win everyone over. Jamie was a little sister like that. She had those cute little eyes and soft hair. She had spunk, dreams, and an iron fist. I’m a softy—a pushover. She could destroy me. Her fury knew no bounds, and occasionally, even singing “Say Say Oh Playmate” together could turn into Rocky II. I was the one who always came away with a bloody nose. Literally.

Going to school with Jamie always meant competition. Even from elementary school days. She jumped further than I did at the Acequia Elementary Field Day. She took more superiors than I did at the Rupert Music Festival. She placed higher in the Spelling Bee— a third grade third place prize compared to my pathetic fourth grade honorable mention. Growing up we moved around a lot, and she always made more friends than I did. As much as I resented my defeats, I tried to fulfill my duties of elder brother with the utmost care and compassion. I pushed elevator buttons for her and showed her how to order food at McDonalds. I watched over the little sister. I made sure she was following rules, doing her chores, and not getting more breaks than I was from my parents. I was Big Brother—born one year earlier than 1984.

An older brother’s busiest time has to be the teenage years. Middle School brings a new set of challenges to caring over a little sister. As the older and mature one, I would have to pave the way for Jamie. I was opening lockers and going to block schedules while she was still experiencing recess. Through my experience and wisdom, I could teach and direct her, control her development. All she had to do was follow my lead, obey my commands, and she would be fine. Or so I thought.
One day I came home from a gruesome three-hour school presentation. The middle school called it “Development Awareness;” we called it “Puberty Day.” Reeling from the experience, I resolved to buy some deodorant and do a little better job of keeping my clothes clean. I started a load of laundry and, of course, Jamie forgot to take her clothes out of the dryer. Grabbing her clothes, I started throwing them in a basket, when, to my breath-wrenching horror, I noticed something I’d never seen before. Maybe I’d seen it somewhere, but never fully recognized it. Until now. Strung shamefully along my arm was little sister’s bra. I shook it off like it was an Arizona scorpion, embarrassed as a pig during Passover. I quickly looked back up again, turned my eyes away from the peccant scene, gulped, and finished my laundry. I realized that maybe Jamie didn’t need my training and *ahem* support with physical maturity.

Middle school melted into high school like disintegrating shaving cream on a hot May parking lot. My role of older brother didn’t change much. I was a counselor, an exemplar. I told the little sister to not take Mr. Edwards for algebra (he should have never come out of retirement. Twice. ). I advised her about the pitfalls of absences and chastised Jamie on her tardiness. To add some humor in our relationship, I made fun of her friends and mocked her occasional poor grades. In the many battles over our shared Chevrolet Corsica, I taught her the value of financial management and respecting her elders. I’m not saying our relationship was perfect. Sometime little sister didn’t always agree on my rules or advice. Despite the bitter glances and the many “I HATE YOU!!”’s, I never lost my focus. I forgave the hours of being ignored and the piercing fingernails. I quickly forgot the many shoes hurled at me, and the little changes done to the Corsica “just for spite.” Surely, her ambition and constant competition with me was just a “stage.” She would grow out of it eventually. Once she reached my level of maturity. Although I generally was calm and forgiving, I was taken aback when her friends became my friends, and my friends became her friends. Couldn’t we have anything that we didn’t have to compete over? I thought it couldn’t get any worse until—well, until Marshall came around.
I guess Marshall was always around; he was one of my best friends. We had a television show together, Co-Starred, Co-Directed, Co-Produced. We were almost always together. And then, something happened. Marshall stopped coming over to my house to see me. He was coming over to my house to see her. And I don’t think they only saw each other. Little sister was dating my best friend. I was losing big time.

My senior year of high school ended, and I found myself working for a summer while preparing for a mission. I left in the fall, but not before I was dragged back to high school to watch the Homecoming Pageant. Jamie was in it. I didn’t think she had a chance of winning. The little sister?? Homecoming queen?? The combination seemed to be like peanut butter and tuna fish. On Rye.

Fifteen hours later (at least it seemed that long) I watched in disbelief as little sister was paraded around the auditorium, wearing a crown and smiling like a French ambassador. The crowd was applauding, my parents were applauding, yet, I was motionless.

For a split second, the green-eyed monster of jealousy attacked me. I looked around at all the fanfare— the roses, the silky dresses, the giggly girls attending to Her Majesty—and wondered how I could one-up that. Jamie was standing on the stage, all the lights were on her and…and then, suddenly, something happened. Nineteen years of arguments, name-calling, and pointless competition simply melted away. . Jamie and I were never in any competition! The center of attention, that pretty blonde girl wearing a long, pink dress, was connected to me in a magical yet very real way. I looked back up at Jamie and I slowly started clapping. She’s not just a little sister. She’s my little sister! And my little sister is Homecoming Queen! She’s beautiful! She’s amazing!! That’s my little sister!!!

It’s been a few years now, and I think I’m doing a better job now of fulfilling my duty as the oldest in the family. I do what any older brother should—take orders and stay out of the way. The little sister’s will take care of the rest.


Tiffanyann said...

Dave that was so sweet!!! You are a dang good older brother, it takes a lot to just step out of the way even though you might have a lot to say!

Amy said...

wow, dave that almost brought me to tears! you are such an amazing writer and brother!

Nellie said...

Whoe Dave, when did you have time to write that? That was so touching that it almost melted away the years of living with you two as enemies. I remember when I paid you ten bucks to pose in a picture with Jamie with you putting your arm around her. It's nice now to actually take the picture that I don't have to bribe. Man oh man I have received so many pay days lately.

Jamie said...

ah dave you made me cry! At work! you little dog, you. Well, you were always an amazing older brother and don't think for once that I was never jealous of your A+ grades and every teacher saying "oh i loooooved dave".

kristenjane said...

David that is so nice! You really are a good brother!

emilyjo said...

That was so sweet of you Dave!

aubrey wegleitner said...

so cute! very well written.