Before we get started it is important that you know that when I was 12, my big brother—home from his senior year of college—agreed to fall on the most painfully explosive of grenades and chaperon me and my two best friends at a New Kids on the Block concert. We desperately wanted to go but didn’t want to have our coolness handicapped by having to attend with (shudder) parents. For two+ hours he sat patiently while we and every other preteen in the greater Washington-Baltimore metro area screeched like banshees through opener Tommy Paige (oh yeah) and then the boys from Beantown. He would later say that it was the loudest concert he’d ever been to, and he’d seen Bowie, U2, Springsteen, and just about every New Wave band to come down the pike in the 80s. Moving on…
When my sister got engaged five years ago, my brother presented her and her fiancé with an unusual engagement present at our family’s annual summer gathering. It was a large bag of peanuts. Here’s why: When my sister was about six and my brother seven, they attended a neighborhood birthday party. At one point, all the kids are seated at a picnic table in the back yard gobbling cake and ice cream. Then the mother announces that they’re about to have a peanut hunt. She tosses a huge bag of peanuts into the air and all the kids immediately scramble to start grabbing peanuts and shoving them in their bags. Doing the same, my brother suddenly stops and looks around for his little sis—also his best buddy—to make sure she’s finding peanuts and having just as swell a time as he is.
Instead, he sees her still seated at the picnic table in her party dress, slowly and mournfully spooning in ice cream and cake, tears streaming down her cheeks. He runs over to her to see what’s going on and through sobs she tells him that she thought she had to be polite and finish her cake and ice cream before she could do the peanut hunt. My brother, wracked with guilt that he hadn’t noticed her in distress right away, took her hand and led her away from the table, threw his peanuts into the air and let her hunt for them with him.
As he presented my sister and her fiancé with the peanuts that day, he told them that for decades this incident had compelled him to be a constant protector for his little sister. But now it was her fiancé’s time to take over and become the one in charge of making sure she got her peanuts, he said.
This past weekend, our family got together for the annual summer trip. And this time I was the one who was engaged. My brother handed my fiancé and I a wrapped box as he reminded us about the peanut gift five years earlier. When I opened this box, I saw that there were two tickets inside. October 2. Verizon Center. New Kids on the Block reunion tour. “You’re in charge of taking her to New Kids on the Block now,” he told my fiancé.
I didn’t know whether to double over with laughter or shed a few tears. I settled on both, simultaneously. I’m fairly certain my fiancé was debating whether to laugh or punch my brother right in the peanuts.