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Connections

Becoming friends with my brother

The first time he called home from college was the moment we stopped being mandatory roommates and started being real friends.

Gracia Lam

As the second child in my family — “the baby,” even though I am now in my mid-30s — I have never known life without my older brother. In my earliest memories, he is there. And from the time I could remember, I wanted to do everything he did. No one was funnier, smarter, or cooler than my big brother. Inexplicably, he often did not want to hang out with his clingy little sister, like the time he and a friend built a fort in the massive snowbank at the top of our driveway. Despite repeated requests to take part in this awesome undertaking, I was denied. And so, when they went in for lunch, I stomped through the fort’s roof.

My brother is a part of most of my favorite childhood memories — and not all of them involve my wrecking something he had painstakingly created. Most of our treasured shared memories are about the high jinks we pulled together. Like the time we loosened the pin connecting the wagon to my dad’s lawnmower. Dad drove off thinking he was hauling leaves, eventually realizing there was nothing behind him. One look at my brother and me laughing turned his confusion to anger. We got a stern talking-to about wasting time and general foolishness.

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Or the time we accidentally broke one of the marble X’s in my grandfather’s tick-tack-toe set, and rather than confess, rode his and my grandmother’s three-wheeler bikes to a remote location, where we tried to make the repairs using glue we’d taken from his shed. Why? Because that is what you do when you are 7 and 9 and on vacation in a retirement community in Florida — you create adventures.

As we got older, we fought over the car (we had one to share), the phone (we had one to share), the TV (ditto), the computer (you get the picture). So when he left for college, I rejoiced that I’d finally have all these things to myself. What I didn’t realize was how much I’d miss him. I remember one of the first times he called home to check in.

“Do you want to say hi to your brother before we hang up?” asked my mom.

I was surprised when I answered yes. But I did. And that was the moment we stopped being mandatory roommates who mostly got along and started being real friends by choice.

At my wedding, I had five bridesmaids, some of my closest and oldest friends, but my brother served as my “man of honor,” as I had always known he would.

During my second maternity leave, I was overwhelmed most of the time. I had a newborn and an 18-month-old, and their needs were as urgent as they were different. My brother used up a bunch of his vacation days on us — it felt as if he was there once a week. He’d hold the baby so I could get a break; entertain the toddler by playing hide-and-seek or chase; listen to me babble on about who was eating or not eating, sleeping or not sleeping; and tell me stories that made me laugh so hard I’d forget I hadn’t showered in days.

I’m not sure if it was all those hours he logged when they were babies, but my daughters, now 4 and 3, have a special place in their hearts for their uncle. When he arrives at our house, they scream and rush his car as though Elmo himself were inside. On a recent morning visit, the first thing my 3-year-old asked was “Can you stay for dinner?”

And the thing is, I know just how she feels.

Laura Shea Souza is a communications professional and writer in Stow. Send comments to connections@globe.com.

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