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The Final Draft
My brother has a friend named Sean. Sean has an older brother named Sam in the eighth grade. The relationship between their family and ours is cordial. We are not the best of family friends, but we’re amiable enough to invite each other for dinner and pleasant conversations. They live ten minutes away from my home and so it is not unusual for us to be invited to their home for dinner. One particular invitation stands out.
It was the middle of winter and it had just snowed. Sean's mother's sister, Mrs. Moore, was visiting from Chicago. Mrs. Moore had a real penchant for oriental cooking. Knowing my parent’s fondness for Chinese food, the Peters invited us over for a six o’clock dinner that would consist of dishes of lo mien, bean curd, and broccoli in garlic sauce (the Moores are vegetarians, like us). The Moores have two identical twin daughters who are six years old. They are adorable little girls who do not always get along with their older, male cousins.
We arrived at the doorstep at promptly five forty-five. Their heavy, oak door was ajar, so we let ourselves in—to sheer and utter chaos.
A shrill siren was reverberating through the house; the smoke detector had gone off. Sean's mother and Mrs. Moore were busy in the kitchen, trying to salvage a burnt tray of noodles. Mrs. Moore’s face, barely visible through a sheer cloud of smoke wafting through the kitchen, was glistening with tears.
In the living room, Sean's father was lying on a sofa. He was cradling a beer in one hand and smothering his face with a pillow held in the other. The plasma TV was on to a defunct station, filling the room with horribly loud white noise. It sounded as if the windows were being pelted with small stones. Mr. Moore was crouched under the TV, fiddling with a nasty tangle of wires he had accidentally unplugged.
Meanwhile, amidst all the noise and confusion were the children. Sean, Sam, and the Moore twins were somewhere upstairs, their stomping made the elaborate electrical candelabra swing gently from its chain. I heard them before I saw them. Like tiny guerilla warriors, they chased each other down a large, carpeted stair case. Sam was wielding a cricket bat and the two girls had their fists clenched into tiny fists. It seemed that the three of them formed a temporary alliance. As soon as they reached the bottom of the stairs they sprung at Sean, toppling and tackling him to the ground.
My brother, suddenly scared, took hold of my hand.
Sibling rivalry is an inevitable occurrence in all families with more than one child. As evident with Sean's family, sibling rivalry becomes worse when the siblings are relatively close in age. Children are very competitive. They fight for ownership of clothes, toys, and even their parents.
Luckily, sibling rivalry has not made much of an appearance at my house. Being seven years older than my brother, I like to think that I’m too old to pummel him to the ground. My brother is scrawny and small for his age. I feel guilty just thinking about hitting him.
Nevertheless we do have our arguments. They used to be about inconsequential things.
Who can eat faster?
Who does mommy love more?
Who has better reflexes?
And they’d often result in him punching me or letting out of a few tears.
Lately, though, our arguments have begun to evolve. They’re still about the same childish things, but the form of the argument has changed. Gone are the fists and kicks. They have been replaced by a war of wit and words.
I’ll admit that I’ve instigated a fair share of arguments with my brother.
Once, in the kitchen, I proclaimed loudly and obnoxiously to my brother, “If mom loved you as much as she loved me she would have made you the first born!”
I stared at my brother, challenging him. I waited for flourish of fists and limbs that would inevitably come. They didn’t.
Instead, my nine year old brother looked up, briefly, from his essay. As if putting on the finishing touches he examined the essay he was writing for homework and then with a quiet air of authority said,
“It’s all right. You are the rough draft. I am the final copy.”
He then quickly got up, took a piece of loose leaf he had used to draft the rudiments of his essay, crumpled it into a ball and threw it in the garbage bin.
The first born in a family is always compared to a guinea pig. The first born is the product of parents’ experimentation as first time parents who are clueless in child rearing.
“Is it wise to hold the baby by its ankles?”
“Should we give it orange juice, or milk?”
“If we gave it a dollar, would it stop crying?”
In our circle of friends, I’m the oldest child. Friends of my parents always come up to them and ask, “How did you do it?”
They smile and laugh and say, “Oh you know, here and there. With Geetika we just learnt as she grew. She was our guinea pig.”
I’ve never minded being compared to a guinea pig. Guinea pigs are lovable creatures. People keep them as pets and love them and care for them.
But a rough draft?
That implied that I was merely the starter kit. I was just a sample, something my parents idly scribbled on before they made their masterpiece, my brother. A rough draft is most definitely not lovable. As my brother so expressively demonstrated, a rough draft is simply something you throw out.
Was I really a rough draft?
True, my parents often said that they never repeated the mistakes they made with me when raising my brother. True, it could be argued that my brother has much more than I did at his age.
Perhaps being the rough draft isn’t all that bad. Rough drafts can attribute their character flaws to their upbringing. It’s not really their fault they turned out the way they did.
I look at my brother and I find that I don’t really mind him being the masterpiece in the family. It’s not easy being a masterpiece, especially when the rough draft was exceptionally good (as is the case in my family). My brother can be the masterpiece and flaunt all he wants because at the end of the day he still doesn’t know where I hid his DS.