It was all about one-upmanship. When we finally agreed on a board game we fought about who would get the car token. I remember telling them I had no Smarties left so that when they'd eaten theirs I would proudly present my unfinished pack and then gloat while slowly eating each individual Smartie underneath their noses. Squabbling with three brothers; the closer in age, the more fights, it seemed.
In spite of all those fights I kept fronting up to play with them, especially in the early years. There was hide and seek, chasey, cowboys and indians and cops and robbers with cap guns. (I remember we used a stone to get those caps to smoke.) There was football and kick to kick, French cricket and swimming in the Clark pool, Monopoly, trips to the milk bar to buy Sunnyboys and mixed lollies, trips to the park.
Then we had our own bikes, our own sports, our own friends, our own activities. They were boys and I tired of backyard cricket and footy.
Time passes. Change is subtle and unobtrusive at first. We occasionally started to agree with one another. Then in the next phase, we heard ourselves organising to go out together. Then before we knew it, I was getting ready to meet girlfriends, delighted when they became engaged and married, and ecstatic about their treasured newborns.
Here I was one day, squabbling over who ate the last of the cake and wishing for a little privacy. Now thousands of kilometres separate us. I wish we could change that. I wish we could all live in the same country, the same state. I wish I could see my brothers and their families more than once or twice a year. I'd love to know their friends as I do my own, to see my nieces and nephews enjoy their special occasions; the birthdays, first school days and graduations, but more importantly, the every day.
I yearn for my brothers' company and their conversation. I learn from them. If I took the very best from my brothers I would be an incredible example of business acumen, of intelligence, integrity, humour, sensitivity, generosity, compromise, trust and love. I would read with greater discernment, have incredible business acumen, move to new countries, travel with greater gusto, scuba dive, cook, change careers and chase promotions, I would be fitter, practise greater life balance and embrace life's opportunities. I'd have more fun.
Spending time with my brothers is a treasured birthday gift, a delightful Christmas present. I will always remember the sibling times I have enjoyed in Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Thailand, Fiji, New Zealand, and Japan. Boarding a plane to visit one of my brothers is simply the greatest thrill.
Brothers bring a life long love like no other. They know me for all my faults and love me anyway. My brother can tell me I'm a procrastinator, ask for the bacon off my plate when I only offered the toast, and forget to call back. But, he is really there for me; the rock for the toughest times, the friend, the prop when I am at my lowest, the company at the footy, at the party, at the restaurant, in a strange country.
Thanks Mum and Dad; years of reminders of how to behave towards my brothers has resulted in a bond and a love so strong that I cannot ever imagine not being able to speak with them and to know they will always be there for me. In times of turmoil I don't want to tell them how much I hurt but they are there supporting and cheering each in their own unique ways. And their opinions count so very much.
I am incredibly proud of the wonderful men my brothers are. I am indebt to them for their constant love, their care, their generosity of spirit. My eyes water when I see them and when I leave them again, not too sure when the next time may be. Each hello and goodbye is another chance to reflect on the sacredness of brother love.
I'm excited for the week ahead. One plane lands and a few days later, one will take off. Happily, I will cherish brother time twice this week.
Childhood squabbles. Really?