It all began when I spotted something on the floor of a particularly dirty thrift store, that was either a piece of candy, or a pill.
“Eat that,” I said to my little brother. I was 5, he was 3.
It was then I learned that a little brother could be good for experiments.
If there ever was a little voice inside my head that said: “Don’t do it, Caroline, that’s going to end badly,” I called on my brother to try it first.
On this occasion, my brother puked in the bathroom, and I learned a valuable lesson, vicariously through my brother, about not eating things off the floor.
We older siblings often take on the duel role of fearless protector and evil dictator in the lives of our younger siblings, at least until they get big enough to beat us up. Then things change as the playing fields are leveled.
I am one of the lucky ones who has grown up to find that my brother is one of my best friends.
Just recently, he tracked down one of our favorite childhood books on eBay and gave it to me as a present. In life, only a sibling can understand the value of such things.
I was thinking about all this after my brother asked his girlfriend to marry him last week.
She said yes.
After the proposal on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis, he took her to a restaurant where she found her father, who had flown in from Florida, her mother from Cokato, my parents and me, waiting to surprise her.
Over dinner, my brother was talking about his feelings for his wife-to-be, when I noticed that I was now sitting across the table from a grown man, and not a boy who eats things off the floor upon my command.
And yet, this is the same person who watched cartoons with me at grandma’s house when we were little, climbed trees in the backyard, listened to the stories I made up about the moon and decorated countless Christmas trees with me.
Now it’s time for him to decorate his own Christmas trees with his own family, and with a wife who, undoubtably, recognizes his immeasurable value.
I wish you all the best, Joe and Holly.