Oliver and Sami kind of circle around each other. They are here together, brothers, but rarely ever doing the same thing or interested in doing so. My own brother came for a visit over Christmas and stayed at my mom's house across town where she lives with my younger brother. Driving over there one afternoon, Sami said to me from the backseat: "Isn't it funny that Paul knows Gram and Patrick, too?" So I explained to him again that Paul and Patrick were my brothers and that we were all little kids together, just like he and Oliver were brothers. "So did Paul bite and kick you all the time, too, then?" His question, asked with such innocence, was bittersweet and I answered with an ounce of truthfulness that yes, sometimes brothers do that and that mine were especially wicked. Not much of a stretch, that.
Tonight while their father was cleaning the post-dinner disaster area that is our kitchen, I sequestered the two youngest children in their bedroom with instructions that they either play with the fifty or so matchbox cars that were strewn around the room or clean them up. Then I laid down on the bed and watched, too tired to really interfere much. Oliver hopped around the room measuring his now ever present spoon against all straight lines within easy reach. Sami jumped from bean bag to bean bag. In a last ditch effort, I reminded them that if they weren't playing they were cleaning. Oliver half-heartedly picked up a car and sent it down the orange track that had been rigged to the door frame while Sami watched. Then Sami's inner foreman took over and he suggested that the two of them build towers out of the large cardboard blocks scattered about one corner of the room. I watched while Sami instructed Oliver where to place each block and was stunned to see Oliver retrieve block after block while following Sami's directives.
"No, put the block like this. The other way, Oliver. Yeah, that's right."
Once they had built two towers Sami showed Oliver how to put the track on top of the tower to give the cars real lift as they were placed at the top of the track by a little pulley system. Without any prompting or input from me, the two of them took turns placing cars on the track and watching them fly from the end into a great heap on the floor. When, on occasion the track or the towers fell down, Sami or Oliver or both would race to repair the damage.
I became much less exhausted moment by moment, watching them play. Play. Together. My boys. I wondered if I would ever see it.
Occasionally, Oliver would stop what he was doing, walk over to his brother, put his face at Sami-level and grin, nose to nose.
At last: the part of brotherhood that doesn't leave someone bleeding.