I have 2 little brothers. Well, they aren't so little anymore. Daniel is 18 years younger than I am. Ted is 15 years younger than I am. Daniel is a junior in high school. Ted is a sophomore in college.
It's a unique sibling relationship when there is such an age gap. While we didn't grow up together or play together or build forts in the back yard... I was a big sis who hosted picnics in the living room, I was there when Ted cried at his first movie (Air Bud; Ted was maybe 6 years old).
I moved off to college when my brothers were little- makes sense, given the age difference.
I remember very clearly the night each of my brothers was born and I remember a lot of their infancies and toddler-hoods.
Today, my baby brother Teddy... now known as Ted... turns 20. No more "teen" to soften the blow of that age. His boyhood is moving fast behind him and he is becoming a solid young man.
It's funny how you change when you "leave the nest." I know I changed a lot when I went off to college. And I've been sitting back and watching Ted blossom, too. And Daniel's time is just around the corner.
But in many ways, Ted will always be Teddy. There is something about being present in someone's life from the day they were born that causes a part of them to be forever stuck at younger ages in your head and heart.
In some ways, Teddy will always be 3 years old, biting into an onion, thinking it was an apple. In some ways, Teddy will always be 6 years old, crying because the boy is abandoning Air Bud on that island. In some ways, Teddy will always want me to read him a story, need his Brave Lion that his big sister gave him, or be the boy that I sat on the grass with, watching the Ohio River, having a picnic and a few tickle fights...
But most of all, Teddy will always be the boy with the Chicken Salad Story.
When Teddy was around 5 years old, my mom was in a phase of weird cooking. She thought it was a great idea to mash vegetables into potatoes so she could "trick" you into eating veggies. There were some odd tasting combinations. I think this was also around the time she began experimenting with tofu. But if there was a casserole or anything blended on the table, we were all a bit cautious. Teddy was already a picky eater. Experimental cook and a picky eater- not always a good match.
This evening, mom served normal food. Nothing fancy, even. Chicken Salad. Chicken, mayo, grapes, some seasoning (maybe dill).
Teddy begins picking and poking and questioning and maybe even whining a bit...
"What is this? I don't want to eat chicken salad! What's in it?"
Instead of going the typical route of honesty... his big sis decided to give him what he seemed to want... the "real" ingredients in mom's chicken salad.
"Well, this is chicken. That's easy. But this right here (pointing to dill)... that's grass from the backyard!"
Teddy's eyes got bigger... "Really???"
"Oh yes! I saw mom do it. She grabbed her scissors and went right out there and cut up a bunch of grass and then I saw her put it in this bowl!"
"Well.. then... what's this?" He nudges a grape with his fork.
"That? Oh, well. I'm not sure I should tell you... but... well, it's a goat's eyeball."
My mom and dad had to stifle giggles at this point.
"A WHAT? A goat's eyeball? Lizzie!"
"It's true! It's a goat's eyeball!"
Ted gives me a sideways glance, thinking over what I've said, trying to decide if I'm teasing or not...
"How did Mom get the goat's eyeball? Did she have to kill it?"
"Oh goodness no! She just walked up to the goat, smacked him on the back of his head, and his eyeball fell right out. She rinsed it off and plopped it right into our salad!"
At this point, the adults at the table aren't containing the giggles and it's clear that I am joking.
"Lizzie! You're joking!" He gives me a grin and looks like he has us all figured out...
"Yes, Ted, I am."
With confidence and maybe even a bit of a prideful swagger, as much as can be mustered by his small 5 year old frame, Ted proclaims...
"They really did kill the goat, didn't they!"
Happy Birthday Ted!! I'm going to eat chicken salad for lunch- in your honor!