When I was young, one of my favorite shows to watch when we got our free cable promotionals was Road to Avonlea. It's based on some of the other books written by Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery and, being the costume drama obsessor that I was (and certified Anne fanatic, even as a wee thing) I loved this show.
(Now, Andy, I know you're probably already cringing because "Anne" is your "Humperdink" but bear with me.)
The episode I remember the most from watching it as a kid was an episode where the parents of the main family leave for a few nights to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary, trusting that the kids and house will be fine in the care of their oldest daughter Felicity (who isn't quite yet fourteen Times have changed!) One thing leads to another and eventually Felicity is in charge not only of her younger siblings Felix and Cecily, but also her cousins Andrew and Sara. It's a disaster. Felicity is horribly bossy, strutting around the house with cleaning schedules and keys to the kitchen cabinet and dietary restrictions that are particularly irksome to Sara and Felix, the most headstrong. Sara fights back. Felix mostly just laughs (which makes Felicity more angry.) The whole thing ends with pies in faces, and accidental haircuts, and a visit from a woman they all think is deaf but really isn't - it's a great situational comedy.
The funny thing is - when I was a kid and watched this episode, I didn't quite catch the comedy. I felt so terrible for Felicity. Why wouldn't they just listen to her?! She was clearly in charge and clearly the most responsible and I loved her name and her hair. And the worst culprit of all was definitely Felix, the obvious villain of the show because he laughed instead of got upset when Felicity was trying to punish him!
It wasn't until a few years later that I saw the episode again and realized that what I was seeing in that episode were projections of myself and my younger brother Andy. We share a lot in common with those two fictional characters (though he'd never know it because he'll NEVER watch it.) I was Felicity - the one who never wanted to be a child. I knew what I wanted: I wanted adults to think I was capable and responsible and smart and had little interest in things I perceived as childish. Nothing was worse than feeling as though I wasn't being taken seriously.
Andy, on the other hand, seemed to me to be everything I wasn't. Where I was always too afraid to get in trouble and thus tried to avoid it, Andy pushed limits and laughed when people got upset - laughed so adorably that he'd not get in trouble at all half the time. He was just too dang charming. We have this great family video of him in his high chair with the remainder of his dinner, ramen noodles (I think), on his plate. He's leaning over and holding the plate over the edge of the tray but not quite dropping it. You can hear mom telling him not to, and you can see a sparkle in his eye and a dimple on his cheek. He couldn't have been more than two - but he knew. He knew he wasn't supposed to. You can also see that he knows he can (and will) get away with it. You can see it. And then, giggling, he lets it fall to the floor.
The result of these two stubborn personalities? Many many years of near constant bickering. Over anything. Time on TV or the computer. Who got last bowls of cereal or bites of cake. Where we sat in the car. Time in the bathroom.
Like my relationship with my father and my sister, moving out changed my relationship with Andy. Or maybe it wasn't really influenced so much by my moving out as by our growing up. Either way, I remember coming home for Christmas one year and realizing that even though my brother still got away with more than I did because he was still more charming, and even though he was still a bit spazzy and messy, and goofy - he was awesome. I had fun with him. We liked enough of the same things that we could do things together and enjoy it. We actually wanted to spend time together. It was wonderful. Suddenly I didn't feel so much like his big sister as his friend. I stopped caring so much about telling him what to do and started to listen more and just enjoy him as he was.
(You see? That charming, happy personality of his eventually wore me down too.)
What I didn't ever anticipate was how much I'd grow to admire and look up to him as well. Andy's life and mine have, in some ways, exchanged places from what people might have expected. I started by living the life everyone wanted of me and Andy started by testing his limits. Now he's married, weeks away from becoming a father, and I am living a life that no one really expected and have discovered that I, too, am brave enough to push a little bit on the limits I perceived for myself. I have a huge amount of respect for the man he has become. I treasure the opportunities we have to talk and appreciate his unwavering support and encouragement. We have a bit of an unspoken pact, the two of us: We are going to get along. Come hell or high water, we will support each other and we will support our younger two siblings, because it is so, so much better when we do. We are determined that our family will always be one of love and care.
So Andy, on your birthday, I want you to know how very much I love you - and how glad I am that we have both grown out of the extremely childish states of our early years to be the great friends we are now. You are an incredible example to me of the power that Christ has in our lives and I am so, so excited for the adventures this new year is going to bring for you.