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Pickle Me This

June 28, 2010

Big Brothers

“Inside the bus, he sat several rows ahead of me and I settled behind a girl singing a pop ballad into her collar. Kids around snapped bubble gum and yelled out jokes, but Joseph held himself still, like everything was pelting him. My big brother. What I could see of his profile was classic: straight nose, high cheekbones, black lashes, light-brown waves of hair. Mom once called him handsome, which had startled me, because he could not be handsome, and yet when I looked at his face I could see how each feature was nicely shaped.” — from Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

And it occurs to me that everything I know about big brothers I know from fiction, because I never had a big brother myself. But I want one, because of Rose’s brother Joseph, and Sally J. Freedman’s brother Douglas, and Elaine Risley’s brother Stephen in Cat’s Eye, and Madeleine’s brother Mike in The Way the Crow Flies. Gawky boys in ill-fitting sweaters who collect things and understand physics. Who are not quite of the world as their sisters are, always just out of reach, whose attention is coveted, elusive. Their protection a kind of talisman. These mysterious boys with pimples and secret girlfriends, twelve-years old and there’s nobody wiser in the world.

4 thoughts on “Big Brothers”

  1. Carrie says:

    I don’t have a big brother either. But now I have a son who is a big brother. I wonder whether his siblings see him like this, and how he sees himself.
    A beautiful summing up of literary big brothers.
    Now, I’m curious, what do literary big sisters look like?

  2. Melissa says:

    Great, now I want a big brother.

    1. Kerry says:

      Do you think it’s too late?

  3. Melissa says:

    Anything is possible when you have boomers for parents.

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