Whenever I haven't called my brother in a while, my mother reminds me that "you guys are the only thing you have." It's weird to think about it that way because my brother and I live 200 miles away now. He is 23 and I'm 19, and for the last couple of years we've been growing and building our own lives away from the home we both grew up in. However, it's still important to remember where we came from, which is exactly the same place.
A sibling is the only person who knows exactly what it's like to grow up in the same house with the same rules. To grow up in the same town, attend the same school, and maybe have some of the same teachers. They know exactly what it's like to wake up and go to bed in the same house, eat the same food, take care of the same pets. Put up with the same nagging from your mother.
That is, until one sibling moves away. All of the sudden you aren't under the same roof and you don't have to follow the same rules. You don't go to the same school and you don't eat the same food, and, for the time being, only one of you has to put up with nagging from your mother.
For me, this change occurred around five years ago in 2014 when my brother went off to college in South Carolina.
I will always remember the places where I dropped my brother off and watched him return to his new world while I stayed with my parents and continued on in my world, which felt so small compared to his. In 2014, that was Boston Logan International Airport, where we would drop my brother off every time he went back to school. I was old enough to stay home alone, but I always brought whatever homework I had left until Sunday night to do and packed in the car with my father and brother for the hour ride to the airport. I waved through the window as my brother, who hardly seemed old enough to own his own debit card, left for a flight that would bring him hundreds of miles away. Back to where he had this whole life I knew nothing about.
That first year was very hard, but being away from my brother in the end made me feel closer to him. He would call every Tuesday and Thursday to talk the family, and that became my only interaction with him. For example, I wouldn't see him every morning at the breakfast table or shove him away from the sink so I could brush my teeth at night. I had to pack those everyday moments into the span of half an hour, which made me treasure those phone calls even more.
Starting in 2015, that drop-off location changed to Boston College, where my brother decided to transfer for his sophomore year of college. We still had the same Sunday night routine: I'd pack into the car with my brother and father with whatever school work I had procrastinated on and we'd drive down Route 2 at dusk. This time, however, when we arrived in Boston, there was no plane to take, just a few flights of stairs for my brother to climb up to his dorm room.
I still watched from my father's Ford Fusion as my brother waved goodbye and ducked inside behind another college student coming from the gym or the cafeteria, this time wondering—as I was a year older—what it would be like for me to be in college, to wave to my father as he drove away.
In 2016 and 2017, we'd drop my brother off on Englewood Ave in Boston, where he lived in his first apartment with his college roommates. Again, the routine was the same: Sunday night, dusk, me in the back, my brother in the front (he always seemed to get his way). This time I'd wonder what it would be like to own my own apartment, to live in the city. I'd wonder what it was like to be truly independent like he was.
In 2018, my brother graduated from college. In the fall, he moved into an apartment in Waltham (a town just outside of Boston) with his best friend from high school. It was funny because, even though he was officially "out in the real world", he had moved closer to home and was still living with the kid he played Cal Ripken baseball with.
2018 was also the year I graduated high school and moved off to college in New York. It wasn't until 2019 that I'd see my brother's apartment in Waltham and drop him off there with my father. I felt different this time, because I wasn't watching my brother leave and wondering what it was like to leave as well. I had my own life, my own apartment even, at school. We had both grown up, and I thought I'd feel different, more removed, maybe, from the home we had shared, but I never did. I never do.
The thing about being a younger sibling and watching my brother grow up from the backseat window of my father's car is that I could see him change even before he could. I saw him move from school to school, apartment to apartment, job to job, while I was still living in our small house, in our small town, attending our small high school. I was wrong about one thing, though. I thought I'd see him change and I'd just stay stationary, unchanging, watching him from the sidelines.
But, in reality, I was changing all those years, too. I watched my brother build his own life and I got excited to do that myself. During those phone calls, I talked to him about where I was in life and where I wanted to go, and he'd give me advice on how to navigate what was about to come: the whole growing up and leaving home thing.
The reason he was so fit to give me that advice was because we both came from the same place. We're all each other have, my brother and I, and we're the closest to one another because we have the same perspective on growing up. It doesn't matter where we are in life. It doesn't even matter that we call each other less now, even though I wish we didn't. What matters is that even if we don't brush our teeth together every night, or roll our eyes at our mother every morning, we can reminisce about doing that. That's something only the two of us can hold on to as we leave that comfort and nostalgia and occupy worlds of our own.