From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

She’s My Sister

He was twelve years old and going on sixteen. He gelled his hair into spikes and wore his pants with the crotch below the knees. He listened to rap music, watched MTV, and generously bestowed on me the nickname, “Sister C.”

Yet when I looked at my brother Matthew, I kept expecting to find the little kid he once had been—the sweet, eager boy who used to drag me outside by the arm, begging me to play football with him or to help him build a clubhouse or to catch salamanders in the creek. That Matthew had always looked up to me. I had been his hero, his big sister and—despite our age difference of several years—his best friend. Now everything was changing.

These days, instead of our usual hikes through the woods, Matthew spent his time indoors, talking on the phone. He refused to dive after the football when we played catch for fear of getting grass stains on his designer jeans, and he hollered at me whenever I bopped him playfully on the head, because how dare I mess up his perfectly sculpted hair.

Of course I had always known he would grow up eventually—I just hadn’t expected it to happen overnight. Matthew was becoming a teenager faster than I thought possible. It was tough facing the fact that I was no longer the center of my brother’s universe, and I worried about where I fit in this new life of his.

I discovered the answer during the spring of Matthew’s seventh-grade year. That was when the kids from my brother’s small private school attended a weeklong outdoor education camp. I had always been involved with Matthew’s school, and because I loved both the outdoors and kids, I volunteered to chaperone.

On the very first day of camp, I was playing catch with Matthew and some of his friends. We were tossing my brother’s football back and forth when some older boys—older than Matthew, at any rate, a few around my age—sauntered over and began snatching the football in midair.

These boys were obviously part of the “in” crowd here at camp. They dressed like teen pop stars and strutted around like they owned the place. It wasn’t long before they had joined my brother and his friends, starting up a competition to see who could throw the football the hardest.

A year ago Matthew would have stood quietly to the side, not sure how to handle himself around “cool” guys like these. But not anymore. Now, my formerly shy kid brother jumped right into the action, showing off exaggerated football player poses, playing the part of the goofball and making everybody laugh. I could hardly believe the change.

For the rest of the week I barely saw my brother. During meals he sat at the most crowded table in the cafeteria, the one packed with young teenagers sporting the latest styles and laughing loudly. Not only that, but my brother was usually the center of attention, making pyramids out of water glasses and blowing straw wrappers at all of his buddies. He was the wacky kid everybody in camp knew and loved. As for me, I quickly became known as “Matthew’s big sister.”

I was happy for him; I really was. For the first time in his life my brother had more friends than he knew what to do with. But a part of me resented being cast aside like an old shoe. I was the one who had taught Matthew how to blow the wrappers off of straws. I had taught him to play football. I had been with him for every major moment in his life until now, and suddenly it was as if none of that mattered.

Or so I thought.

Then, on the last evening of camp, Matthew ran up to me as I was heading back to my cabin. “Chrissy!” he called out. “We’re gonna play football! You have to come!”

I blinked in surprise. “Are you sure you want me to?” I asked. “I won’t embarrass you?”

“Not unless you stink up the place,” he replied, but he was smiling. “It doesn’t matter. Just play.”

I followed Matthew to the football field. All his cool new friends were there waiting, and when they saw me, they laughed. “I thought you were getting a real player!” one of the guys exclaimed. “Why’d you bring a girl?”

“She’s my sister,” was Matthew’s reply. “And she’s really good!”

“Hey, girl!” another boy laughed. “Do you know what this thing is?” He held the football two inches from my face.

“Yeah.” I grinned and jokingly shoved my fist in front of the boy’s nose. “Do you know what this is?”

A few of the guys snickered, and we were able to get on with the game.

As bad luck would have it, I wound up on the opposite team from Matthew. Still, I wanted to score a hundred touchdowns to prove to my brother that his faith in me wasn’t misplaced.

Unfortunately, I never got that chance. The guys on my team simply refused to pass the ball to a girl. In fact, they wouldn’t let me anywhere near it. That football game might have been the most frustrating I’d ever played . . . had it not been for Matthew.

As soon as he realized what was happening, he began to stick up for me. He shouted loudly over at his teammates.

“It’s a good thing they’re not throwing the ball to my sister or we’d be losing big time! She’s wide open during every play!

“Hey, if you hadn’t pushed in front of my sister she could’ve gotten that kick return and made a touchdown! Lucky for us you’re not letting the fast person touch the ball!

“At least my sister isn’t guarding our good players or we’d never even score!”

Over and over, throughout the entire game, my brother stood up for me in front of all his new friends. As badly as he wanted to be one of them, and as important as it was for him to be cool, Matthew proved that I was even more important. “She’s my sister,” he had said proudly. And the awesome thing was that he was still saying it, even though I couldn’t even try to score a single touchdown. He claimed me even when his friends laughed.

That night I realized that I no longer had to worry about losing my brother as he became a teenager. I didn’t have to worry about ever losing him. Because even though our relationship might change over time, it would always be strong.

That night Matthew proved that no matter what, he would always care about me, and on that night I had never been prouder to be called his sister.

Christina Dotson

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