I always wanted a brother: an older brother, to be exact. I pictured him as big and strong and kind and protective. He would affectionately ruffle my hair, listen to me when I needed an ear, shield me from bullies, introduce me to his cute (and really nice) friends and be my biggest supporter.
Alas, I was the firstborn. I did get to be an older sister but I fear I fell short of the mark when it came to being my sister’s protector (although, in my defence, the one and only time I have ever purposely struck another person was when another little girl was beating up my sister and I came storming in to rescue her). Luckily, despite my shortcomings as an older sister, M_ and I eventually decided that the two of us were enough. Some time in our twenties, after my sister and I discussed the merits and drawbacks of our fictional older brother at great length, we both determined that he would have been a ‘jerk’ and that we were better off without him.
I finally got the next best thing to a brother when my sister M_ got married. My brother-in-law ‘S_’ is a self-professed computer geek. There is nothing he cannot help you with in the computer department. He and I both share a love of end-of-the-world (and other) books. And he has the best music collection – hands down – of anyone I know. Over the years, my car music cassettes – and then CDs – have been awesome, thanks to S_. When I got divorced, S_ took to travelling with his toolkit: whenever he and my sister came to visit, he always entered the house ready to fix anything that might have broken down. He adored my kids and for a great many years, I, my kids, my sister and my brother-in-law vacationed together (in tents, as that was all I could afford at the time). We had a great many wonderful moments but we also did what all families do when they camp together, that is to say, we occasionally fought like cats and dogs (to be fair, S_ was often the referee, rather than an instigator). Even now, if I am coming for a visit, my brother-in-law offers to pick me up if my husband can drive me halfway (a three-and-a-half-hour trip). Like my parents and my sister, he calls me by my family nick-name; ‘Pad’ (which still melts my heart, all these years later).
One of S_’s biggest faults is that he never answers a question directly. To get any specific information from him requires a long and frustrating conversation that appears to wander aimlessly about the room as you try to pin him down to giving you the information you are seeking. And like most every man in the universe, his second biggest fault is that he doesn’t pay the slightest attention to a conversation my sister and I are having unless it is of specific interest to him.
Never was this more apparent than the year I asked for his help in buying a Christmas present for my sister. Around twenty years ago, M_ and I had both become enamoured with those candle-holder circles of friends that happened to be very popular at the time. They looked very pagan and primitive: like they had just been excavated from an ice-age archaeological dig. My sister and I had both fallen in love with them. That year, I was almost 100% sure that my sister had bought me one; and I suspected she was 100% sure I had done the same. The problem was, they were so popular that year, I couldn’t find one anywhere. Christmastime was approaching and I was getting desperate. Knowing my incredibly-organised sister had likely already bought my gift, I figured S_ would be able to help, without me actually having to tell him I was pretty sure he and M_ were giving me the very same thing.
I think I still have the e-mail somewhere. It rambled on and on; it told me in no uncertain terms that S_ was utterly unaware of what he and M_ were giving me for Christmas that year; it never once answered any of my questions directly. But in the end, S_ assured me that he had found one and picked it up for me. Oh, yes, and he was kind enough to wrap it (unlike most men, he is a precise and awesome present wrapper). I thanked him profusely, of course, and tried my very best to quell the awful apprehension that something just wasn’t ‘right’.
That year, on Christmas morning, S_ excitedly brought out the gift he and I had conspired to buy my sister. The gift that was so well wrapped that I couldn’t even take a peek the night before to make sure everything was just fine.
My sister is nothing if not honest. She opened the box and stared long and hard before bringing the circle of friends out into the open. Straining to see what was inside the box, I froze in place as she looked up at me with a look of utter bewilderment on her face. When she finally drew it out of the box, my heart sank. It was not the primitive circle of friends I had wanted to give her: instead, it looked like a bunch of futuristic, geometric, extra-terrestrials in numerous tones of the most vivid blue. Sitting in a lotus position. It was nothing like the one she and I had admired. Nothing. Not even close… To my horrified eyes, it looked more like a circle of aliens. As I struggled to explain, without overmuch hurting my dearest brother-in-law’s feelings (after all, he did try), I found myself miserably at a loss for words.
The words came to me a few minutes later, as I unwrapped my own Christmas present: the beautiful, primitive circle of friends my sister and I had both wanted that year sat looking majestic and very prehistoric in the folds of wrapping paper. “Oh!” I exclaimed, giving my brother-in-law a hard, annoyed look, “This is JUST what I wanted!”
After she had heard the full story, my sister – unequivocally unimpressed with her husband’s shopping skills – did try to exchange what she would forever dub the ‘Circle of Idiots’. Unfortunately, my brother-in-law had bought it at one of those temporary booths that pop up before the holidays and magically disappear a short time after. The best the vendors would do was allow her to exchange it for some merchandise they still had on hand; in this case, a few watches that never quite fit properly on her wrist.
While neither of us have ever allowed my brother-in-law to live down the dreadful purchase, we have nonetheless laughed long and hard about this over the years. We even made a pact that if it is in our power to do so, the first one to die will send the other a sign that we are safe and well. Specifically, whoever dies first has been instructed to come to the other in a dream, looking geometrically idiotic and sitting in a lotus position.
And as soon as the remaining sister stops laughing, we have given one another instructions to go forth and tell the world about our Message from Beyond…
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com