Christmas of 1995. Sam and I were independent enough to give presents using our funds. It was an exciting time. I knew exactly what I was going to get him: Dave Barry’s newest book. I hunted for it at our local bookstore in Greenbelt and wrapped it a week before. Every time I walked by the presents, my heart skipped a beat. I knew he was going to be super excited; he loved Dave Barry’s column’s in Time Magazine at the time. I knew I had nailed it and couldn’t wait to listen to my new album. (I gave him my wish list for my present a couple weeks earlier. It consisted of one item: TLC’s Crazysexycool album.)
Christmas eve. Sam came home from the mall with a single unwrapped CD in his pocket, walked directly into my room and handed me a double album. To my utter disappointment, it was The Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album. “This is not what I asked for!” I said completely pissed that he couldn’t do a simple favor for me! “You need something a little more intellectual, trust me, you’ll like it!” This is our relationship in a nutshell–me loving anything cheesy and pop that comes my way, him: shaking his head replacing the cheese with something intellectual like Walden Pond, or Radiohead, or Jurrasic 5. I used to hate him for it and secretly thought I was dumber than him. The thing about my brother is, however, he can be super controlling about my intellect sometimes, yet behind his need for me to be more intellectual is a deep admiration for my intellect and my ability to get a party started with his friends and mine.
Last week when I finally sat down to watch a film that has been in my Netflix queue for almost a year: Into the Wild, I had no idea that I was getting ready to re-live the bliss-filled memories of our youth. As the opening credits rolled and the voice-over began, I was instantly transported back to 1994-1998 aka my high school years. This was the time during which I discovered Thoreau, Emerson, and the Transcendentalist movement–thank you Sam. It didn’t happen in an English class, though this is the lie I sometimes tell my students in hopes that their discoveries will happen in my presence. (Yes, it’s a self-indulgent profession…only sometimes.) My discovery happened late one night when I was complaining to Sam about having to read all these super challenging and boring texts for English class. That night, although he was about to go do something way more fun, he sat down across from his progeny and said, “dude, the transcendental movement was bad ass, if only we could all strive to be like them.” It was all I needed to hear, from the one person I wanted to be most like; I was hooked. I read everything I could about them and took copious notes during Ms. Braxton’s lectures about it all. “Thoreau was a pacifist; Emerson an activist…” she went on. I even wrote an essay comparing Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the Transcendental movement.
Watching Alex Supertramp, trek across America in search of Alaska and the serenity that he believed came by abandoning all modern society, I began to long for those days when Sam and I dreamed of becoming hermits like our hero Thoreau. (I am a bit of a dreamer, a romantic who can easily blur her reality in hopes of the a super glamorous future, even if it meant to live as a hermit.) I always believed that I got this trait from my dad. He is a Jack-of-all-trades who is a dreamer, but watching Alex Supertramp getting excited about hiking up a hill to see the world around him got me thinking that this trait was actually birthed by my brother who is a dreamer himself. As a young musician, he dreamed of playing live shows in stadiums. As a young philosopher, he dreamed of going into the woods and becoming a hermit to observe life. As an artist, he dreamed of sharing the true meaning of art with youth.
As my artist guide, he nurtured me into this delicious dreamer girl who dives into endeavors–fears and all. Grateful for his life lessons, sometimes pissed off that he didn’t free me of his expectations, I remember a time when I came to him with all my decisions. A girl ready to believe in everything he said and did.