Congratulations, Tomato Head! Love, Curmudgeon

My brother Sam graduates from high school today and will be heading to Chicago in a few months to embark on a five-year architecture program. I’m not sure if this is normal for a sibling — especially one who hasn’t lived in the same house as her brother in years — but I feel as emotional as a proud, nostalgic parent watching her baby leave the nest.

Sam and I are nine years apart. Because of this large gap, we’ve never fought, never had to compete with each other, and spent half our childhoods like only children. I was an only child for the first nine years of my life, and when he was still in elementary school, I moved to Portland for college, and soon after that, I moved to New York and have only been able to see him about once a year.

In many ways, Sam is very different from me — and I believe this is at least partly due to the fact that he (and our parents) learned from my difficulties: he never ditched his numerous extracurricular activities; he doesn’t constantly misplace his valuables; and he found a clear passion at an early age. Meanwhile, I had a love-hate relationship with my 13 years of ballet and piano lessons; I’ve lost purses and cell phones and expensive jewelry as a child; and I’ve had so many passions throughout my life, from philosophy to art history to investment banking (hey, don’t judge! I had a cool AP Econ teacher!). My parents always did their best to cultivate every passion I’ve had, chasing after my random interests with all relevant knowledge and resources they could provide. Fortunately for them, my brother was a lot easier.

And, yet, I still see so much of myself in Sam. Siblings have such a distinctive relationship. Despite our nine-year difference, Sam and I grew up in relatively identical environments, in the same house, with the same heavily-scheduled lives stuffed with practices and performances and cultural events and too many AP classes. We both love big cities, took lessons from the same piano teacher, and got dragged to all the weekly events that my parents attend. We both dislike driving, almost as much as we dislike Republicans. It must be reassuring to my parents that even though we are from different generations, Sam and I are most definitely from the same parents.

What bonds us the most, though, just like with all other siblings, are our inside jokes. My most vivid memories of Sam involve us laughing together. Sam is goofy and clever, entertaining and easy to entertain. Laughing comes easy to him, and when we’re together, he brings out the goofiness in me. Regardless of how much time passes, we can still remember our inside jokes from years ago — the kind of jokes that don’t sound funny when you explain them to other people; the kind of jokes that our parents didn’t even try to understand when we were too busy giggling in the backseat of my mom’s car; the kind of jokes that bind two people together forever. Our goofy moments have been some of my favorite memories.

College is such a defining phase of one’s life. I can’t wait to watch Sam expand his mind with (and stress over) new architectural concepts, grow into someone both similar and different from myself, and continue to make me proud, goofy big sister.

At the aquarium