The magic of brothers

When I was a kid growing up on a dead-end street in Hillside, factories at the top, factories at the bottom, all playing fields to us, we had an ice-cream man who served soft ice cream along with the Good Humor bars. The most expensive item on the truck was a chocolate shake.

The block was full of kids ranging from me and my best friend Anne, the youngest, to older brothers and sisters, in their late teens and early twenties. None of us could really afford the chocolate shakes. I’d stare at the picture as I counted dimes. One day, my brother was there, watching us in line. He must have seen me counting, figuring, looking disappointed, because he got up off the curb and said, “What do you want? My treat.”

I was afraid to say the shake, but he guessed it and said, that’s fine, and he pulled what looked like a fortune to me from his pocket. I’m sure it wasn’t, but slicing a dollar bill from what looked like tens and twenties had my eyes open wide. He worked. He was older. From that day on, if he was ever around when the ice cream man came, he’d jog over and buy me a shake.

That wasn’t his only magic. He let me play in his bedroom when he was out. He had swords and daggers hanging on his walls, medieval wall hangings, a spiked flail hanging over his pillow. And he had a wall of model cars. I didn’t take anything down, I just touched things gently, and then lay on his bed and made up stories. I liked cars and dolls equally as a kid; I liked swords and easy-bake-ovens. He encouraged my imagination in what others might have dissuaded.

And he was an artist, is an artist. He’d let me watch him draw. I’d sit at the kitchen table and watch the array of pencils bring out shadow and light to form trees and mountains and cabins and our own small house in a little street.

He’s taken to going on vacations with my family now. And I tell him he has to bring his paints and canvases. It takes him nearly the entire week to get up inspiration, and then he sighs and unwraps the canvas and sets out the paint jars and palette. I wonder if he’s doing it just because I’m waiting. We bring home at least two small canvases, little things he says aren’t worth anything.

I love them. I have two of his large paintings hanging in my house, along with the little things. I still have the sketches he drew me when I was kid, even the fire engines he helped me draw for a school project. He’ll be retiring soon, and I told him he has to come out more often, have dinner with us. He and Gary are very good friends. Maybe we’ll go out for ice cream, and maybe I’ll order the biggest dish!

Older brothers can be magic to a younger sister. I wonder sometimes how much he’s responsible for my opinions of men and my underlying belief they’re good guys.

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7 thoughts on “The magic of brothers

  1. Agreed, this was excellent.

    What I really wanted to know was when to use ‘fewer’ or ‘less.’ Fewer for count nouns, less for mass nouns? That’s very confusing. I feel like I’ll never have the understanding required to correct others like I always do with farther/further.

    Also, about this whole ‘I and me’ thing. I’m trying to change the rules on that. I’ve always used ‘me and blank.’ I’ve always thought it was transparently faux politeness to include the other person’s name first when obviously, yourself is who(m) one considers more important. Also, many times, the person isn’t even in the room! Why would you put their name before your own when they’re not even around to be part of the discussion?

    Is it ever acceptable to place quotation marks inside of punctuation marks, especially with regards to dialogue and the rarer terminal punctuations (! and?) ? Like ‘dialogue’? Are there rules for ‘ or ” ?

    I want to compliment your usage of ‘I’ve’. Sometimes it makes me feel weird to write or say that instead of ‘I have’.

    • Chris, I think you should be a copy editor. Most people don’t care in the least about these things! I should add “fewer/less” to my list of commonly misused words, though I think we’re just learning to accept “less” for everything. I mean “fewer” sounds awkward because it’s not as common now. Chicago Manual of Style says an easy guideline is to use “less” with singular nouns and “fewer” with plural nouns. I haven’t tested that theory out to see if it always works. But in the examples they give, we’d say “I need less dirt” and “I need less water,” not “I need fewer dirt” or “fewer water.” But while we should say “the room held fewer people” and “this bar has fewer calories,” what sounds more natural to me is “the room held less people” and “the bar has less calories.” When is it time to let go?

      I’m with you on the “me and ___.” I’m not sure why people decided that rolled easier from the tongue, but it’s fairly universal, I think.

      And yes, definitely some punctuation appears inside quotation marks. The way you show is correct with question marks outside. But they can appear inside. CMS examples: The woman cried, “Those men are beating that child!” vs. Her husband actually responded, “It’s no concern of mine”! (The exclamation isn’t in what he said, but in her interpretation of how he responded.)

      Generally, periods and commas are included within quotation marks, and that ruling has less to do with sense than appearance. Typographically, those little lower marks fit better within (it does look weird when they’re outside). But that rule kind of bugs me since it’s not based on the logic of the sentence. Usually, all CMS rulings are geared toward logic and uniformity. But with question marks and exclamation points and colons, the punctuation appears within the quotation mark if it is part of the quotation and without if it’s not. (Wait, I can’t think of any instance where the colon would be inside!)

      As for “I’ve”? I prefer a less formal style for myself. And when I write these posts? Wow, I’m just free-writing. I’m not polishing. It’s a fifteen minute thing or it doesn’t get done, lol. If you find typos or grammatical errors, however, let me know … because I’d like them to be correct; I just don’t want to spend too much of my time rereading.

      And thanks for reading! I’m just transferring writing-type posts, with a little mix of other things, from other places to more pubic places 🙂

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