I consider myself lucky to have an older brother. Don't get me wrong - he's a pain. He's always been one, but that's part of the fun and, I believe, the Big Brother Call of Duty (not the 1984 big brother, to be clear).
When I was growing up, I followed him all over the place. I'm sure he thought I was a pain, too... I flushed his truck, once. His favourite toy truck. He apparently has yet to forgive me, but I think he has. In any case, he broke the bottom left hinge of my My Little Pony castle, so I think we're even.
Once, he placed all of my toys around that castle. My Cabbage Patch Kid (Gigi), my She-Ra figures and my ponies were all conversing. I became convinced they all came to life when I wasn't watching, and I just had to be quiet enough and I'd catch them. I spoke comforting words that I would never tell on them. You know, I never did catch them in motion. And my brother admitted to me just a few years ago that he had been the one to move them (I think I would have figured that out if I had still been thinking about it).
I also used to make tree destroying boas by tying two baby ponies on each end of a rope. Turns out the trees always won and the ponies would get stuck, and every single time my brother would get them down. And never once did he tell me to stop (I think he liked throwing stuff at my ponies to get them down).
And my brother breaks the mold. Unlike all CBC TV specials that show concerned kids screaming and running for help when their siblings fall in frozen ponds, my brother just stood beside the pond and told me to just put my feet down, it wasn't that deep. He was right, too. He was also right when he pointed out that skipping rope on the frozen pond might not be the smartest move.
Then, later on, I ran into problems while at university. Despite working and having a student loan, money was tight (text books are expensive!) He stepped in and helped me with my rent. When I was coming home on my birthday once, he treated me to a First Class VIA ticket. My now sister-in-law bought me a train riding outfit to mark the occasion. I was spoiled and loving it!
Earlier than that, during my first year in university, I came home at Thanksgiving and I didn't want to go back. I couldn't understand anything (I had conversational English, at best, and went to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo). I didn't know the rules for writing an English essay, people kept screaming "pamplemousse" and "ananas" at me the second they heard my French accent, and a few others asked that I "kneel before my conquerors." (HA!) My brother almost threw me back on that train and told me to go to the Writing Centre, ask my teachers for clarification when necessary and to buy reference books. He then said that if I didn't want to go back at Christmas, I didn't have to. I graduated in 2000.
It's my brother's birthday, today, in case you're wondering why I'm going on about him. He's 36. Wow.
When I look back at my own 30-some years, I see what an impact he's had. I know for sure that, without him, I wouldn't have graduated university. I wouldn't be published, because he forced me to become better and better, never mincing words. I wouldn't live in Ottawa, and I love the city. Without my brother, I wouldn't think that bugs had their redeeming traits, that amphibians were kind of sweet, that fish had personalities and that it's cute to have destructive cats. Without my brother, I doubt I'd look up at the stars and wonder about both the science and stories of our skies. I definitely wouldn't understand that it's okay not to understand and just to enjoy.
I know that it's okay to change, and to accept that change. My brother, after all, used to hate children, and now he loves cute little babies and has two beautiful children of his own. He's grown, changed, adapted, taken up causes after long hours of research. He's not afraid to explore, debate, laugh and be laughed at. In other words, he's pure awesome.
I believe in nature, but more so in nurture, possibly because I have many adopted family members (not my brother, though I argued it quite a bit as I was growing up). I believe that we are products of our environment, our inner strength, our passions and our relationships. and I know I wouldn't be who I am today without my brother.
So happy birthday, Jean-François. I can't wait to see all the marvellous things you'll accomplish this year!