Rumor has it I was less-than-thrilled about the birth of my baby brother. The details are hazy to me, seeing as I was three at the time, but the story goes that I'd been staying with my grandparents while my mother was in the hospital. We got the call that she'd given birth, and my father announced to me that I had a new little brother. To which I replied, "I want to live with Grandma and Grandpa now." 1
That pretty much set the tone in our relationship from childhood through the college years.2 I'm not sure what changed exactly, or when, but these days my brother is not only my writing partner3 but also one of my very best friends. And I have learned that a bonus in working with a partner who also happens to be your brother is that you are granted carte blanche to occasionally revert to your five-year-old self amidst times of stress.
Family has to love you, even when you're not being a mature and professional adult-type person.4
1. (It didn't fly.)
2. (His, not mine.)
3. (SO PUNK ROCK, an illustrated novel, due out this July!)
4. (Thank GAWD!)
- Micol Ostow
I disagree with Micol. Family does not have to love you. My very unscientific observations suggest that the odds of being born into a community of people who are prepared to love you for who you are and who – in their tolerance – deserve the same, are fairly slim.
For better and for worse, we Ostows have beaten those odds.
For better because the freedom to pursue our chosen paths has given Micol and me not only a clear perspective on our own selves, but on one another as well. And it turns out we're not so different. Our shared sense of entitlement, cynicism to the world at large, and tendency to laugh at the expense of others are the keys to any success with which So Punk Rock is met. Without the opportunity to harness all this negative energy and to deflect it outwards, Micol would still be throwing blunt objects at me – as she did when we were children - and I would still be sleeping with one eye open.
For worse because, having given us carte blanche to explore our creative sides, our parents paved the way for a long history to come of sibling competition. This was first evident when my sister, age 10, declared that she "could write circles around anything I drew." At the time, my 7-year-old self couldn’t make sense of the figurative nature of this comment and could scarcely understand why Micol wouldn't prefer the more standard medium of ruled paper to my pretty good drawing of Garfield which didn't call for any embellishment as far as I could tell. At 30 years old, I think I finally understand what she was getting at, and let’s just say the race is on to see who can exploit their talent faster and more effectively. (She's winning so far.)
Luckily - and perhaps in anticipation of this - our parents bequeathed to us another long-standing Ostow family institution: Therapy.
- David Ostow
Visit the websites for Micol, David, and So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother)
Follow the series of family posts.