August 18, 2006

Brothers

brothers

I can remember the first night of With-a-Why's life outside the womb. Not yet even 24 hours old, he was already revealing his identity as the baby from hell who would never sleep. I'd been in labor with him for days (quite literally -- my water had broken nine days earlier), and although I was thrilled with this cute lively baby, I was exhausted and sore. Labor and delivery had been wonderful, but the afterpains that shrink the uterus back down to size get worse with each pregnancy, and this was my fourth full-term birth. And sensitive skin means that my nipples always took a few weeks to toughen up each time I had a new baby.

I hadn't had a good night sleep in more than nine days. In fact, I hadn't had any kind of sleep at all for 24 hours. So I was ready to hand this wide awake baby, cute as he was, off to someone more responsible.

I was at home on our king-sized bed, surrounded by children. Spouse had been cuddling three-year-old Shaggy Hair Boy, and they had both fallen asleep on the quilt on the floor. I hated to wake up Spouse. In his efforts to be supportive of me during labor, he hadn't gotten any sleep either. My eight-year-old daughter, who had spent the day rocking the baby and waiting on me, was asleep on the far side of the bed. I knew she too was exhausted from the excitement of a new baby in the house.

But one person was still wide awake -- our night owl, the kid who never sleeps, six-year-old Boy in Black. He was sitting cross-legged on the bed, dressed in a black t-shirt and shorts, his big brown eyes looking at the baby. He did not look tired in the least.

I handed him the baby. "Here, just hold him, and let him suck on your finger."

Boy in Black nodded solemnly. He and the newborn baby looked at each other, both with that same wide awake stare. The baby still had on that little knit cap that babies sometimes wear the first day to keep up their body heat, and Boy in Black pulled the cap off to kiss his brother's head.

"I like to kiss his head," I heard him say. He put his finger, upside down the way I'd shown him, in the baby's mouth and the baby began sucking vigorously.

"He's six," I thought to myself. "This is probably irresponsible." And then I drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up later, Boy in Black was still caring for the baby, both of them still wide awake. "I like having a baby brudder," Boy in Black kept saying. He sounded surprised.

I nursed the baby, handed him back to his six-year-old brother, and went back to sleep. And that night set the pattern for With-a-Why's life.

We always joke in the household that Boy in Black is the only person that With-a-Why listens to, and that is pretty much true. They've never had a fight, or even a squabble. They both have that same easy-going temperament and rational mindset that they inherited from their Dad. (Their mother, their sister, and their other brother all considerably more emotional.) Although they are six years apart, people always comment on the likeness between them.

Almost twelve years later, With-a-Why still looks up at his older brother with those big wide-awake eyes. Night owls both, they've been staying up ridiculously late all week, playing games, watching episodes of Futurama on the laptop, or playing with legos. They are prepping, I think, for what is going to be a dramatic change.

Boy in Black is going off to college.

His closeness to his siblings is one reason Boy in Black chose to go to Snowstorm University, rather than a more prestigious college. (Well, that and a full scholarship.) So Boy in Black will still be able to come home for a meal now and then, or to say hello, or to snowboard with his siblings. He will be living about nine miles away. With-a-Why will probably go spend the night with him in the dorm at least once this semester, just like he has with his sister, to charm all the college students and have the excitement of buying candy and soda from the vending machines.

My daughter, already a student at Snowstorm University, will be thrilled of course to have her brother on campus. But our household is going to feel a loss, as another child grows up and leaves home. It will be strange to check on my kids before I go to sleep and not find Boy in Black playing his guitar in the living room, or looking through music on the computer. Shaggy Hair is going to miss his company when he stays up late to work on a homework project. Spouse is going to miss the child who is more like him than any of the others. But the most difficult change will be for my youngest child, who bonded with Boy in Black his very first night, and who is going to sorely miss his role model, his buddy, his big brother.

brotherswithguitar

Boy in Black teaching With-a-Why some guitar basics. (The guitar is upside down because With-a-Why plays left-handed.)

47 comments:

Mona Buonanotte said...

This is one of the sweetest things you've ever written...sentimental me got all teary.

9 miles is SO close, I hope the boys can still find the time to do 'brudder' things together.

ccw said...

I am positively weepy! This is such a touching post. I love your kids.

RLT said...

I think you've got the best of both worlds there. The kids can go off on their own and begin to learn how to live with the freedom and responsibilities that come with that, while being close enough so that home is always an option. That your kids want to stay that close says something lovely about your family, too, something we see often in your posts and pictures. It's very heartwarming.

Laura said...

crying.

Linda (FM) said...

Damn, jo(e), you've made me cry. My brother and I were that close growing up as well. It killed me when he went away to college.

Leslee said...

You made me cry too!!

I've always wanted that close relationship with my brother. It never happened though. I'm glad to see that it does happen somewhere in the world though. Even if it's up in Snowstorm.

RageyOne said...

Oh, what a thoughtful post. It sounds as if they have a really special bond.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Crying here, too. So sweet!

peripateticpolarbear said...

aw.

landismom said...

That is really sweet. I love the image of him sitting with the his finger in the baby's mouth--who among us hasn't been there! My brother came and visited me in college, and I lived a lot more than 9 miles away. I'm sure they'll be able to maintain their close bond.

Piece of Work said...

That is such a wonderful story, I am completely crying.

Marie said...

Gorgeous post. But I almost love the picture more. BiB is so close to WaW, pointing things out, kind of solicitous. I can just hear some gentle tone of voice as he works with his brother. Oh, it's just SO poignant. I love how you write about your kids.

comebacknikki said...

Oh, this is so sweet and thoughtful...and the photo of your boys by the water is beautiful.

Prof Mama said...

I love this story. Thank you for sharing it with us.

BTW, this confirms the image of BiB I had in that dream a while back. What a wonderful, gentle soul.

Chip said...

what a great post! And what a great big brother BiB is. Good thing he's not going too far away.

KLee said...

Just one more reason to love Boy in Black... what a wonderful brother he is! And, I'm sure that the house will not be the same without him, even if he's not moving all that far away.

Liesl said...

Aw. So sweet, and bittersweet, simultaneously. I get the distinct feeling BiB will home more than you might suspect simply because WaW is so important :)

susan said...

How wonderful: coming from a family with considerable histories of tensions among siblings, I'm just bowled over by this. Lucky ducks.

henna said...

Well now, Mona said it. So beautiful. I too, am crying. Thank you, jo(e), for this most powerful post. I can only dream and strive for something like this for my little Fox (1 yr), and our future family.

BiB walks a well trodden path that your 'olders' cleared, and how exciting is it to see what WaW will do with what he has learned from them...

Always seem to be thanking you...

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

A wonderful and poignant story, jo(e)!! Another big change in the traintack village household for sure!

Heidi the Hick said...

Painful but beautiful. That bond can't ever be broken.

Your blog is wonderful!

Shelly said...

Joe, I can only imagine the difficulty of productively letting go. I'm still in that stage (well, maybe you never had this) of looking forward to the distant future when they'll LEAVE, but I worry about how I'll feel. Hell, I have worries about the semester beginning after being a home.

Do you have any trouble coping with the starting up again of work and school after being at home and vacationing during the summer, and if so, how do you deal with it? The novelty of downtime during the summer and adapting to workitis in the fall is new to me.

Honeybee said...

I think this has to be one of the best posts I've read here, and you're an excellent writer.

Such a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

~profgrrrrl~ said...

Oh, this is just the sweetest!!! Made me cry, too.

Reminds me of what has gone on in my family. Sissy2 is so sweet with Sissy3. And Sissy2 is driving from Tundra to G'ville right now. Having those two in different states, so sad.

Jane Dark said...

I loved this post, jo(e). I don't even know how to tell you how much.

ItAllDepends said...

Very very touching.

Thanks for this, jo(e), and for your entire blog - it's become one of my daily reads (and a daily inspiration!) BiB is not the only role model around here!

jo(e) said...

Shelly: I like the change of seasons and the transition to fall. After a heat wave or two -- with me just lying on the floor doing nothing because it's too hot -- I am usually ready for the cold fall weather. And usually about this time of year, I begin to miss teaching and my students. So I am usually ready to go back.

liz said...

I'm all verklempt.

Oh! 7 more to go!!!!

liz said...

200,008!!!!!

jo(e) said...

Liz: Yeah, hitting 200,000 does feel like some kind of milestone. Know who number 200,000 was? My daughter.

We were both on our laptops, and I had just read your comment (I get comments emailed to me so I can read them without checking the blog), and I said to her, "Hey, I am about to hit 200,000 on my blog."

So she clicked over to my blog, and was visitor #200,000.

Marni said...

Makes my heart ache, but it is a true testament to you and your husband. You have raised one heck of a family. You are one lucky lady!

Scrivener said...

This post makes me wish for an older brother.

Congratulations on hitting number 200,000! How long till 1,000,000? I'm guessing January.

Sara said...

Simply lovely..
And making me wish I had more than two, darn you!

BeachMama said...

Reminds me of me and my Sisters. Enjoy the closeness.

I couldn't imagine J going to University, I can still barely imagine him going to school at all!

jar said...

We sent our oldest to college this past Wednesday. He is the one most like me and that is the hardest. No guitar playing and no one fighting me for coffee in the coffee pot. He is 2.5 hours away. Has called 2 of the 4 days away and has given us a list of things to bring on Tuesday. I miss seeing him on the couch etc. In my head I am so proud and in my heart sad. It is an interesting mix.

zelda1 said...

How cool that your son will be so close. I cringe when my 27 year old moves to far away. It sounds like your children are well adjusted and the younger brother will do just fine. Maybe for a week or two he will be lost, but he will figure out what to do in between visits with his brother.

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

All these recent posts about Boy in Black have made me so weepy, and my little one isn't even going off to college for another 15 years!

kate5kiwis said...

you know, jo(e), i read this yesterday, but was so choked up i couldn't post a comment.
the way you write about the relationships between your family: it really reminds me of the special things our family shares...
our eldest son, D16, has an equally special bond with each of his younger siblings. he still holds a baby oh, so gently. and plays tag with the older ones so fabulously.
we have one or two years until he flies the nest, and i am already tearing up at the thought.
but little birdies need to learn to fly..

thanks again for sharing your beautiful life.

Yankee, Transferred said...

sighing.

Girl said...

Darn it...you made me cry...and not just tears welling up, but an actual tear falling down my cheek.

I have always been the one to wear my heart on my sleeve...just yesterday, as the boy and I decided on what house to buy, I barely made it home before breaking out in huge sobs. The enormity of the whole thing hit me. This home we are buying, this is the place where we will live when we get married, where we will be when our children are born, and most likely, where we will be when at least one of our parents passes on.

I know it is a little frivolous to be so sentimental, but I hope to have children who are as creative and independent, as determined and as respectful as yours are someday.

I guess my looking forward to what I don't yet have and your looking backward to what has transpired is what made me well up.

Peace, Jo(e).

--girl

Kristen said...

This is so touching. The image of six-year-old Boy in Black caring for his newborn baby brother is profoundly beautiful. I'm sure the transition will be heart-wrenching and strange for them.

Sunday's Child said...

read this post after talking to my brother who just moved a thousand miles from my home. you put a narrative to what I love about my family.

Kate said...

That was so lovely, and so sweet. You are a wonderful parent and ally to your children. I'm struck by it every time you write about them.

chichimama said...

That's the relationship that I hope my kids will have. You are such a great parent.

And as a graduate of what I am guessing is Snowstorm University, I wish him well at what I still think is the best choice I ever made, even though I could have gone to a much more prestigious place.

halloweenlover said...

Now I'm all weepy. I'm so glad he is staying close by, but I'm still sad for the leaving. Sniff.

DaniGirl said...

This post made me cry big, fat, salty tears. Thanks for the gorgeous insight into how much your boys love each other.

BlackenedBoy said...

Wow, that about broke my heart in two.

I definitely have tears in my eyes.