Thursday, June 18, 2009

Band of Brothers

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother.”
--Henry V



That’s right…I’m starting this post with a little Shakespeare. And by doing so, have I tricked you into thinking I’m smarter than I really am, and that my subject matter is loftier and more academic in nature that it is really is? No? Then it must have been my endless discussion of pasta bread bowls that blew my cover. But in my defense, this particular passage of Shakespeare is highly appropriate, because we do have a band of brothers in this house, and therefore, we have our share of bloodshed.

I’m pretty low-key about it. We even have a blanket rule: I don’t go get a band-aid unless the blood is dripping onto the carpet, and even then, if you can mop it up with something and it stops, you’re good to go. And don’t worry: I’m not slowly becoming desensitized to acts of sibling brutality; these injuries are simply occurring during your everyday active play. Because I don’t condone violence, unless it’s in the form of a Nerf semi-automatic weapon, which I did cave and buy (x3) this past Christmas. Because nothing says “Peace on Earth” like being belted in rounds of ten with bullets the size of tampons. (And sadly, that comparison is no guessimate--Toby once found a stash of ‘extra amo’ in the bathroom cabinet and let ‘em fly.)

But why do I have brothers and bloodshed on the brain? Why, because it’s summer of course, and nothing says summer like ‘increased sibling togetherness’. To be fair, my boys get along very, very well. There’s no one to whom Toby looks up more than his ’brodders’, and while the older two were still in school, I’d pull up to the playground at 2:30 to see them walking shoulder to shoulder to the car, chatting happily and greeting Toby with a high five or a candy they’ve saved for him from their lunch. (Granted, it’s only if they ended up with a flavor they dislike, but Toby doesn’t know that.)

And I’ve noticed that they depend upon one another. Is this perhaps born of necessity? (“Mom! Mom? Oh, never mind….Nate, will you help?”) My evil plan…it’s working. But I love their willingness to rely on each other, for the big things, and the small. Toby will bring Calvin his pile of Bakugan and ask him to read the instructions on the face of the cards. Nate always picks Cal very first during impromptu soccer games in the park, and last week, when I asked Cal to take the mail to the mailbox just as a thunderstorm was threatening, he looked sideways to his brother and asked, “Will you come with me, Nate?”

It’s my deep hope that when they’re grown, they’ll still lean on one other when an extra shoulder would be welcome. When they could use support. When they’re bursting to share news or celebrate a milestone or just want to toss a ball around or sit and talk. I hope it will be as natural to them to pick up the phone and say hi as it is now, leaning over the side of the bunk-bed to whisper while straining to see each other in the dark.

And I look at a photograph like this--one of my all-time favorites--and I get all sappy and nostalgic. But be honest, wouldn’t you?

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(And to think this is the boy who is driving me to the brink of insanity. Look at how he’s cradling Toby’s little head. I think he just might turn out alright after all.)

And so I searched for more evidence of brotherly love:

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In that last one, they're coated in mud, if anyone's wondering...which just goes to show that anything would look idyllic in black and white. Therefore, I’ll leave you with an example of the occasional petty squabble. At this very moment, Nate and Calvin are intensely dueling in some parallel Harry Potter universe, and I find myself interceding in an argument over how many seconds can pass between the incantation of a jinx and its counter-jinx. Yes, this is the world I live in. (In case any experts want to weigh in, I’ve just informed Nate that if two seconds pass between “Stupify!” and Protego!”, the curse counts.)

But alas, this argument has caught the attention of Toby, who up until now had been happily engaged elsewhere. He looks up to see Nate and Cal dueling, and immediately decides to lay claim to what is rightfully his:

“Hey! Cal-vin! That's my wand!”

“It’s fine, Toby,” I tell him. “You’re not even using it.”

His big blue eyes blink at me. “Well now I am!”

So I instruct Calvin to relinquish the weapon, and Toby wastes no time getting even. Tearing down the hall after them, I hear him pick his spell without a moment’s hesitation. In a steely voice he shouts:

“Accio underpants!”

I wait for this move to elicit more bickering, but instead, it’s greeted by a chorus of laughter. Somehow, I’d forgotten one of the most basic, unwritten rules of brotherhood: a good underwear joke will forgive anything.

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