My brother and I were really weird, little kids. I had to stop and edit this already; I wrote it ‘Me and my brother.’ This is the order of things in my head, him being a year younger and always the follower to my leader in childhood.
See, all children have an active inner life, but me and my brother (there I go again) had a whole little world to ourselves. Our parents were early onto the divorce trend, and we spent our time equally divided between a respectable 18th century house situated on a small hill at the end of a private street, and a tangled, countryside acreage where we shared a wide, narrow attic in a small but sturdy residence built by my great grandfather and rented to my mother by her uncles, while she and her husband ‘got their feet on the ground.’
Dad’s house had a large t.v. and stereo system, and lots of Time magazines and heavy, polished wood furniture. We also had a strict dad who, for reasons still mysterious to me, outlawed most foods in his home including peanutbutter, jello and cheese. He brought home rabbit-meat hotdogs, and served salads that consisted of a head of ice-berg lettuce chopped into fourths. We had an hour and a half window during the day while television was allowable, and beyond that the strict supervision petered out somewhat, and we became free to spend time doing whatever we wished, as long as it did not cause a great deal of bother to anyone.
At mom’s, the only television was in the parents bedroom, and there was usually a large, hairy step-person engrossed in it. The attic was our domain, and we had an ancient vinyl record player, as well as numerous kittens and all manner of erratic pets to entertain ourselves with while the grown-up’s attentions were absorbed by their mysterious grown-up pursuits.
The common denominator in our lives were books and a sibling. Sometimes our dad would go off on a completelly puzzling temper tantrum, and our mom often seemed exhausted, slogging through a divorce and teaching, melding together a new married life. My brother and I would hold whispered counsels and quickly attribute both reason and meaning to our parent’s confusing behavior. With our child-like wisdom, we understood more than they and could afford to excuse and then ignore their weird reactions.
We locked ourselves into worlds that existed side by side, but separate from the grown-up dimension. Our games were often machiavellian, mind-numbingly elaborate, and yes, I’d swear by it: We could do magic. Looking back, it seems curious how unaware I was of the ‘real’ world. This impression has been reinforced by the fact that I grew into an adolescent much more stuck in her head than would be deemed recommendable.
And we were serious. Oh, we were serious, my brother and I. Our games were not child’s play; they were quests conducted with the gravity of neurophysicists. When we hunted some archaic object in the high, gold fields behind my uncles’ property, we would actually find something: Something strange, and broken, and decades old.
We went about our business with supreme patience for the occasional mundane tasks set in our path by hulking, clueless adults. We were small scholars, often borrowing old and giant books our parents didn’t touch, but kept in the book-case, perhaps for aesthetic value. We would squat side by side aborbed in a quest for knowledge with a certainty of purpose I’ve never managed to duplicate, now that my life is infused with grown-up importance. My mother once took a picture as she discovered us at the head of the stair, her head cresting suddenly in the attic where the flash betrayed two mini-intellectuals age 5 & 6, sitting side by side, laps covered by an enormous tome. My eyes were very deep set for a childs and I am squinting at the camera with an irritated expression. My brother is more like a strange, wizened owl, his small white face dwarfed by an enormous pair of glasses that rest perilously on a tiny button nose. We both look bothered by the interruption but too busy to protest in depth.
My mother was always astounded by how we appropriated things we were never meant to see, much less touch. We did it effortlessly, and without much consideration as to why such things might be forbidden to us. Experiments with matches were conducted at frequent intervals. We removed a gold tipped vase from the highest shelf of the tall, glass curio cabinet, and buried our step-dad’s cigarettes beside a book of erotic art that had been locked up in storage. “How did you get hold of these?” mom would ask, puzzled, when she occasionally stumbled upon our stash of kyped wares.
I don’t remember how we answered her questions. It was just magic though; a rather casual intertwining of the wills. Not something floating through the air so much as a common decision we’d arrive at to have something, and then it would just become a part of our repoirtoire of working possessions. I couldn’t tell you, really, what world we lived in, but sometimes in a dream it is that specific time instead of any specific place that I look back toward, and recognize as home.
My brother eventually found boy playmates, and he began to run and kick balls and terrorize the bathtub with transformers and plastic moulded monsters. More slowly and more stubbornly I became initiated into the commercially guided world of little girls.
It’s with regret, though, that I look back at the separation, the induction into real life. I can’t do magic anymore, and it was like losing part of myself to wade toward the side of the socializing chasm farthest from my brother. I wouldn’t say he was my other half, but he was the 40% to my 60%. Okay, on a normal day maybe 35% to my 65%. At any rate, we both became 100% whole, broken children, and there haven’t been any small, mystic burglars around here since.