I stood on the creek shore, holding our family dog by the collar. My dad and brother made their way across the raging creek to the midway point where the engine of the tiny motor boat sputtered and died. I can remember their faces slip from smiles to frowns as they slowly started to drift sideways. I wanted to laugh, but I knew that my brother couldn't swim. Although he was probably in his 20's at the time, the water was just deep and angry enough to present a real danger.
We regrouped on the shore a few harrowing minutes later, anchored the boat, and made our way to the barn with our gear. It felt like hours to me, but I spent most of my days inside playing video games so I wasn't the best judge of outdoor time. We spent the night camping in an old flooded-out camper, which had been bleached and declared "good as new". It wasn't either of those things. The camper sat inside of an old red barn, in the middle of a field.
It poured for the entire day, so we sat inside and watched the dog trudge across the field, only visible by the shifting weeds. My brother brought along a medical crate, full of composition books and Pilot Precise V5's. I was obsessed with my brother, 15 or so years my senior, and his cool hobbies. He was an artist by skill and emotion and was always trying something new. I still have a love for the V5's, all because my brother used them to write in the old cloroxed camper that weekend. He wrote and wrote as the composition books filled with crisp black ink. I was certain that he would be a famous author, painter, or combination of the two someday.
I wanted to be just like my older brother but doubted that I could ever be that talented, as if talent was some God-given skill that couldn't be achieved with practice. I begged my parents for some fancy pens and a composition book, not just a spiral notebook that could be purchased for a few cents at the drug store. I kept a journal, somewhat akin to Harriet the Spy's, full of observations about classmates, family, and friends. I like to think that my love of writing was born in that little red barn, as I watched my brother scribble furiously, using ideas as bricks to build his own new world. Writing has always been on the same shelf as painting and other forms of artistic expression in my mind, and I still yearn to be able to produce something worthy of consumption.
I'm thankful to my brother for instilling this love of art and creative pursuits. I learned more about the other, less admirable, parts of his life as I grew up. He's since disappeared for years at a time and is currently off of the grid. I hope for his sake that he sorts out his life someday, but despite his imperfections he has had a profoundly positive impact on me. Sometimes I wish that I could dust off my kid glasses, in my case large and tortoise-shelled, and go for one last camping trip.