Most of what I remember about Robert
was teasing - the snake he chased me with - the dishes he tricked me into washing - the closet he locked me in. There are other things, of course - the drawer full of marble
s he was always winning - the record he chose when we got our first, magic record player - the odor of black walnut
husks that hung about him after he trampled them down to dry in the attic of our garage. And I remember jealousy
- how he and mother laughed together when I dropped the milk bottle full of milk on the top steps leading to our front porch.
One memory of Robert, however, pervades the others with its warmth. This was the summer we went to Bible School. We rode both ways on his bicycle, and the fact that he had to put his arms almost around me to hold the handle bars seemed somehow to tame his boyish heart.
As he wheeled me over smooth streets and bumpy ones, he entertained himself and me by teaching me the names of the trees. We saw many different trees along the way. This included cottonwood, catalpa, maple, and elm. His delight at my successes and his patience at my errors made the trees my friends. I can see them now as we wheeled steadily along, and I can even feel how my bottom numbed because the trip was long.
I enjoyed Bible School as well. We had twin girls for teachers who were kind, and we sang, "Jesus loves the little children - All the children of the world - red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight - Jesus loves the little children." The song did not teach me tolerance, though. I had to learn that later when a Negro sat in the seat in front of me in a new school.
The Bible School that made a difference in my life was on wheels. As my brother took me to and fro, I learned the names of the trees like an alphabet, and from this knowledge I have branched out into an awareness of the world of nature. This awareness is a vital touch point for me which puts meaning in my life. I spend as much time as possible in contact with the natural world because it is there that I feel closest to God.
Siblings may be a mixed blessing in our lives, but they make a significant difference in what we are. They are so important because they are a constant influence in our early beginnings. I buried so much of my memories of Robert so deep in my subconscious mind that I seldom am able to bring them to the surface. We know, though, that the deeper they are the more influence they have.