"Don't wreck your shit." Yeah, right. Kathy Y. Wilson — Women's Issue editor and my Negro Tour Guide — asked me to write about sibling relations and expects me to not "wreck my shit."
Don't get me wrong. I love my sister. Despite the 11 years difference in age, we know each other pretty well, but talking about family can be downright dangerous. Everyone has his view of the picture, his side of the story.
This is my view of the more significant moments in my relationship with my sibling. I'm trying not to wreck.
My sister Caitlin and I were only children. Yeah, early on I changed diapers and did a bit of babysitting.
In college I would visit to do my share of laundry and fridge-raiding, but none of this really counts as sibling bonding.
It was between the diaper changing and mooching collegiate years that she and I were closest as brother and sister — a relatively short window from the ages of 14 to 16. She was about 3 or 4 years old when we started working on the lyrics to AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
It was a linguistic exercise, I swear. Our friends Dallas and Virginia had a microphone hooked up to a high-end tape recorder. We used that for our two-person shows. I was a little metal-geek still in my guitar learning infancy, and Caitlin was oddly enamored with my antics. We laughed the whole time.
After joining the marching band at school, my biggest fan became a 5-year-old. I was still a complete geek to the rest of the world, but it was clear that Caitlin thought I was pretty cool.
She stumbled around the house, swimming in my tacky band uniform: satin top, polyester pants and blue molded plastic cowboy hat. Somehow she managed to keep both hands firmly wrapped around the oversized, taped-up drumsticks.
They looked like tree trunks in her hands. It always cracked me up.
By the time she was 6, Caitlin and I were pretty close. That's when she started playing soccer, which became the new focus of her life for the next 16 years. I became the fan, the cheerleader and the supporter.
Although I didn't walk around with her miniature shin-guards strapped to my legs, I did my best to support her. It was clear she'd found her calling, and I wanted to play a part, even if it meant sitting on the sidelines watching her grow up.
The birth of her sports career coincided with the start of my relationships with girls, college and photography. I lost touch with the daily ins and outs of Caitlin's life. They fell victim to our difference in age and responsibilities.
It's not until recently that I've grown to realize how important those three short years were to my self-esteem. Having an unquestioning supporter, a completely judgment-free, geek-blind devotee was invaluable, especially at an age when most kids in your peer group are simultaneously self-absorbed and self-deprecating.
Caitlin turned 23 a few months back. She's graduated from college, gotten engaged and just landed her first full-time job as a designer for a newspaper.
Hmmm, a designer for a newspaper? Her career choice mirrors my own.
Could this be the next stage in older brother idolatry? I don't think so, but it just might be the common element that brings us a little bit closer together again.
Suddenly, 11 years doesn't seem so far apart.