It was my birthday. I don’t remember which one. But my brother pulled me around our neighborhood on my sled. His gift to me.
Another memory: We were grown. His wife was finishing a bout with a 24-hour bug. I must have been having car trouble because he and I were in his car with my five kids and his three kids on our way home from church youth activities.
My sister-in-law wanted a Big Mac–her post-illness craving. So we pulled into a McDonald’s drive-through for our one sandwich order–with ten people in the car.
My brother joked “Can we have a knife with that? We have to cut it up ten ways?”
The worker turned to comply when my brother said, “No, no, I’m just kidding.” People who work in McD drive-throughs probably see it all.
Soon after that, he and his family moved to the northwestern-most corner of our state–about a four-hour drive away.
We visited each other in summers and sometimes over Thanksgiving or Easter weekend. Sometimes, one or two of my kids would enjoy an extended visit.
He and his wife have modeled nearly 45 years of marriage. But his parenting style also caught the attention of my kids.
Last week, my brother got to spend most of a vacation week with most of my kids and their kids.
It gave them the chance to tell him what he meant to them as they were growing up.
Yesterday we had a family birthday celebration. We sang “Happy Birthday” to three of us, each from a different generation. Multiple birthday celebrations are common with our crowd. And when we get to the names part of the song, we are all calling names in random order. Joyful chaos.
Love is in the singing and the celebration. The food and the talking. Love is in the everyday living. Love is in the memories we carry with us.
There is power in the building of memories. Character grows in the young by thin layers built upon previous layers. We can’t see the importance of a simple layer until later.
Each story, each instance a touching of hearts, another layer.
“The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Each layer, touch, story, memory built over a lifetime to glue us together. To make us family.