When TheBro and I were children, we squabbled as much as any two siblings who are secretly devoted to each other. I seem to remember experimenting with hitting and biting him when he was a baby and I was four or five, but my parents put a stop to that, and it must not have felt very natural or like something I wanted to do anyway, because I don’t remember continuing it into older childhood, nor do I remember TheBro ever retaliating.
You do well to look alarmed, TheBro. The battle of words is about to begin.
When we were growing up in Then Church, it was almost maddening how often my friends told me their parents asked them why they couldn’t be like me and TheBro because we “never fought.” It was maddening because we did fight, quite frequently as I recall, but because we never came to blows and we rarely raised our voices (although TheBro once used his trombone to good effect), no one could tell, evidently.
I’m not sure which of my less stellar qualities triggered my brother’s ire–maybe he would never have fought with me at all if I hadn’t picked fights with him, as I remember him being quite sweet–but I was the elder sister and I was competitive and although I was happy for things to be “fair,” if there were any inequity, I thought I deserved to win out. The crazy thing is, the only specific things I can remember fighting over were words. I don’t mean with words. I mean over words. Probably not the sorts of words you would think, either. Consider:
When I was in fourth grade at my Christian school, we were learning something in our Bible class and the teacher told us that the early Hebrews were largely agricultural. Then she told us that agriculture meant having to do with farming: many of the early Hebrews were farmers. As a nine year old, agriculture was decidedly the biggest word I thought I knew. I went home and gloated to my five-year-old, kindergartener brother, “I know what agriculture means and you don’t!”
Naturally, TheBro turned to my mother and said, “What does agriculture mean?”
She told him, while I protested with fervour that no no no she shouldn’t tell him because he was only five and I had had to wait to learn the word until I was nine and it wasn’t fair!
Who does that?
I don’t know, but quite a few years later, when I was in high school and TheBro was in junior high, we had both become fans of the alternative Christian musician, Steve Taylor. One of the things that delighted me, at least, about Steve Taylor’s songs was that they were clever and incisive and incorporated words that you wouldn’t expect. Take, for example, the very first two lines of his song “Am I in Sync?” (This was before the band of that name, guys. He definitely was never *NSync).
Synthesizer rock moved Jessica’s feet/As a slave to that ubiquitous beat.
(Yes. “Synthesizer rock.” It was the 80’s. What can I say?)
Both TheBro and I had never heard the word ubiquitous before, but we liked the (pretty funny) sound of it. I guess I cared more what it meant, though, so I looked it up in a dictionary (you know, those books you had to look words up in before the internet?) which is probably why I remembered the spelling and pronunciation of it. I’m not sure how the word came up in random sibling conversation, but I distinctly remember the two of us hanging out in the basement of the house where we grew up and TheBro pronouncing it . . . (gasp)
I also remember getting into a mildly heated back-and-forth argument about it. (“It’s ubquiddious.” “No, it’s ubiquitous.“) Finally I looked it back up and waved the entry in TheBro’s face. “Ubiquitous!” I crowed. For years after that, whenever we had a similarly trivial but invested argument which I proceeded to win, I would again crow, “Ubiquitous!” It might have been a little annoying. I suppose. Just maybe.
What did you used to fight with your siblings about?