If your parents are anything like mine, or any other parent on the face of the planet, you’ve probably heard the following at least a hundred times:
“Be nice to your brother and sister. You may hate them now but they’re going to be all you have one day.”
The worst part about it? Realizing like pretty much everything else they’ve ever said to you, from saving money for college to not getting that face tattoo you want, they are always right.
Being the oldest of three, I was excited to have a little sister and brother to look after and take care of. Until I realized it meant sharing the precious camcorder spotlight or not getting as many toys or new clothes, or no longer being the cute, little one in the family. No – I was the older sister. I needed to make “sacrifices” and have “responsibilities.”
So I decided to do what any normal older sibling desperate for attention would do. I tried to mail my sister to China. And frame her for stealing books by putting barcode stickers on her. And blame her and my brother for breaking chairs or my dad’s favorite painting or spilling spaghettios. Basically, I was a devil child (in disguise).
But over the years, as the three of us grew up, something weird happened. We started to actually like each other.
And so we began sharing secrets. And making inside jokes our parents wouldn’t understand. And calling one another when we needed help. Things that my parents warned us would eventually happen, even though we swore they were crazy.
The three of us no longer live under the same roof anymore. My sister lives down the street from my parents with her boyfriend. My brother goes to school at Temple in Philly. I live in Maryland. Naptime and playtime and dinnertime have been replaced by full-time jobs, heavy course loads and other adult responsibilities. Which is why when the three of us actually are able to spend time together, I like to take full advantage of it and appreciate every single second.
As you may have already gathered from Monday’s post, my sister, her boyfriend and my brother had made plans to come down this past weekend so the two boys could jump out of a plane with me. I wanted all three of us to participate in something together though, which is why I was excited when Mike made reservations for all of us to go paintballing on Sunday. I couldn’t imagine a better group to go with.
After a very long and exhausting day at the skydiving center, followed by a late (albeit delicious) dinner at Matchbox, we came home, played a few card games and called it a night around 1 as we had a wakeup time of 7.
After groaning at our alarm clocks and throwing on layer after layer of t-shirts and sweats, we made the hour and a half drive to middle-of-nowhere Virginia to get geared up and down and dirty.
We were assigned our teams, given instructions on how to shoot the guns and rules for the game: capture the flag. After a brief strategy meeting, we found our posts and got ready to defend our bunker.
Something you should know about me if you haven’t picked up on it already: I’m a bit of a girly girl. Not necessarily the kind that loves Katherine Heigl movies, wears pink sparkly nail polish (ok guilty) and squeaks every time she talks. I’m talking more along the lines of hating dirt and messes – especially when I am the one getting dirty and messy.
As a kid I was a total tomboy. I climbed trees, made (and sometimes ate) mud pies, organized neighborhood street hockey games – you name it. Somewhere between my pair of denim overalls and my first pair of glitter heels I forgot about the rough and tumble girl from years ago. The one who collected caterpillars and danced in the rain every chance she got.
On the way to the battlefield I tried jumping from place to place in a hopeless attempt to avoid the giant mud piles strewn everywhere. My post itself was behind a fallen over tree in a giant puddle of mud.
At first I resisted. I whimpered at the mud that was starting to cover my shoes and I squirmed at the bugs that were crawling in front of me. But before I knew it a paintball when whizzing by my head, nearly hitting me in the face right before I ducked and fell to my knees in the mud puddle in front of me.
I lifted my hands and let the mud squish through my fingers. I looked up and saw my brother and sister ahead of me, both crouched down in the mud, behind trees. I felt a ball form in the back of my throat – the kind of ball that forms when you try to choke back tears. Because I realized that those afternoons making mud pies with my brother and sister and playing hide-and-go-seek in the woods were some of the best days of my life but I didn’t figure that out until now.
For the next two hours or so we crawled through mud, ran from tree to tree, hiding behind barrels and logs as we played a game of full-on war. It was by far one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had. And I’m so lucky I got to experience it with my brother and sister. For a few hours that day we were kids again. Not plagued with prepping for finals or stressing about work. Rather we played for hours, got dirty and loved every minute of it.
We made the long drive home after we were worn out, bruised, and out of paintballs. One by one we washed off our warpaint and filled our rumbling stomachs with a healthy dose of Nando’s Peri-Peri and froyo.
They packed their bags and we said goodbye to each other.
It’s funny how parents are always right in the end. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred miles, a few adult responsibilities mixed in with some mud and paint to make you realize that two of your greatest friends have been standing right beside you all along.