My life was only a blink so far, yet my baby brother was ages younger in my eyes. Of course, my mom was simply ageless–to a kid, Mom has always been, is in another kind of life–”grown up” life. A big deal! But the world I knew was young. My brother played a huge role.
He wasn’t crawling yet. My mom sat on a blanket in the living room, where she set him down. I would join them after gathering what we needed from a wooden desk in the kitchen–a few bookmark-shaped pieces of paperboard. Daubed with magic, heralding the upcoming joy, there was a blue, a red and a green.
As my brother was so young, we were only on the blue age range. I excitedly pulled that one from the desk and brought it to my mom before I sat down with her.
Both sides of the paper were rife with activity ideas perfect for babies my brother’s age. And I got to participate.
I leaned forward on my knees and one hand to hold a red plastic ball toward his face, and he stared at the ball from his belly-down position before flailing his hands for it. Without much luck—but I squealed, pulling it toward me anyway, then repeating this. My brother saw what I was doing, and we were playing together!
He was having fun, I was having fun, Mom was right there on our blanket…and Dad was walking in the house.
He knew the drill; he chose wisely, dropping his briefcase and kneeling before I had a chance to tackle him. As soon as I darted into his embrace, he rolled with me to the right, stretched out and turned facedown. He let me jump up and then step onto his back. I carefully trod from his waist to his shoulders and back, then got down.
Dad rolled over, grabbed my hands, and stuck out his feet while I faced them. Pressing against his feet while he raised them, next thing I knew I was flying. An angel, arms to the side, only Dad’s feet to balance on. A flying squirrel. A bird like the little brown and black ones in our green yard.
Somebody’s mom had told me at church that if you got close enough to a sparrow to sprinkle salt on its tail, you could catch it. That was a big deal in my mind. I never achieved the salt-sprinkling feat, but it gave me hope whenever I tried to sneak up from behind a bird.
I was an airplane flying above my dad. Then he wiggled his toes against my belly, making me squeal, laugh, squeal. He lowered me and turned to my brother. I followed his line of sight and immediately updated Dad, “We got to do ACTIVITIES today!” To me, these colored-paper activities had become their own thing, as they say–institutionalized in my young mind; a distinct thing; and indeed, a thrilling use of a block of time.
Dad joined the crowd on the blanket and played peekaboo with my brother. I followed his lead, and I tried hard to make my brother laugh when I poked my face out from behind my hands.
Our mom went into the kitchen and turned on the oven. We usually ate at 6:00–except on Wednesdays, because we had church at 6:30. The rest of us still on the blanket, Dad talked to us two boys about our day. He and I couldn’t go for long with laughing, exchanging knowing glances about the cute things my brother did while I was holding the red ball out toward him. I asked Dad what the blue paper said, and we got to do another activity before it was time to wash hands for supper. Dad asked me what drink I wanted. “Apple juice apple juice!”
My brother went into his high chair at the head of our elliptical table. Even at my age then, I thought he was too cute in his snug, bear-decorated clothes with his kid spoon and fork.
It was time for supper. We prayed. Mom and Dad talked about what had happened at our church and out in the world that day. I scampered to my room after a few minutes when I suddenly remembered the play dough we’d made that morning–we made it–which I had let dry in the bird’s-nest and bird-egg forms I’d fashioned it into. Dad said it was good when I returned with it to the table. I grinned, and I recounted how play dough suddenly appeared after we mixed a few unassuming ingredients together. Mom told Dad some updates on her family–her mom had called earlier. They never exhausted topics to fill each other in on, so there was plenty to say.
Across from my little brother, at the end of the table, God was there. Blessing my brother’s little heart and my little soul with this love-soaked evening, thriving at every moment off our parents and the warm home they’d brought us into.
How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard
(from Psalm 133, The Message)