I miss my older brother, sometimes. He died a few years ago. Tom, two years older, was my co-conspirator in the years after the war. We'd listen with rapt attention to The Lone Ranger, The Shadow and my all-time favorite, Let's Pretend. • Parents in those days didn't hover over us, and after school we went home to load up on cookies and milk, change our clothes and head out the door. Our neighborhood had lots of kids. We could usually find enough kids for a side-yard football game. Or maybe it would be building a fort or a tree house.
Tom was an organizer. If we were building a fort, he told everyone what we needed and assigned tasks. We were lucky in that one of the kids was really good at building stuff. I'm sure he became an engineer. Tom was very good at getting everyone to participate and the budding engineer actually directed the building.
In the summer, all the kids in the neighborhood played Kick the Can in the evening until my mother whistled. She had a formidable whistle. All the kids were instructed to head for home when Mrs. Stoll whistled. It took me years to learn how to whistle like that.
Being a tomboy, the only time I was ever interested in dolls was when my little brother, Eric, was born when I was 10. I practiced diapering and blanket-wrapping on my doll, hoping my mother would let me help with him. I lost interest when I discovered what real babies did in their diapers. My doll would never dream of doing something that nasty. She didn't spit up either.
When I was 13 and Eric was 3, I could earn a little pocket money by babysitting for him for an hour or two during the day. Tom, at 15, didn't babysit.
At 16, Tom got his driver's license. We had a wonderful summer. We went to one of the two drive-in hamburger joints and cruised around town. I got to ride shotgun. We went to parties, but a lot of the time we just cruised.
Our parents had high expectations for Tom. I think our father felt that Tom would go into industry after college, follow in his footsteps. I figured he would be an actor or a politician. What a surprise when he announced he would go to seminary and become an Episcopalian priest. I have always had an adversarial relationship with organized religion. I thought, at the time, that he had chosen a profession that would provide him with a captive audience.
We both got married and began families of our own. Meanwhile Eric was growing up. Tom and I were off on our own so Eric grew up like an only child. He visited us often and my two daughters adored him. We grew close at the same time that Tom and I grew further apart.
I was used to relationships with brothers, but had no notion of how sisters relate until my two daughters came along, two-plus years apart.
In many ways their relationship was similar to mine with my older brother. Except that as adults, living far apart from each other, my girls remain very close. They talk to each other all the time. If one has a problem, the other hears about it in detail. My relationship with my brothers as adults was never like that. My older brother and I met only for very special occasions and when we had problems that pertained to our aging mother. We didn't talk on the phone much either.
Darling Husband, an only child, never went through the ups and downs that normally exist between siblings. He also has two daughters and they too are very close to each other. And because of Facebook, one of my daughters is in close communication with one of his daughters. I think this is great, even though they have never met.
Brothers are great, but sisters have something special. I sometimes wish I had one.
Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.