Long ago and far away, when I was a college kid (I told you it was long ago), I volunteered for Big Brothers Big Sisters. There weren’t enough male volunteers to serve as Big Brothers, so they asked me if I would mind being matched up with a Little Brother instead.
I grew up with three brothers, so I felt comfortable with a Little Brother instead of a Little Sister. The first day I went to meet him, I was more nervous than I’d ever been meeting anyone, hoping he liked me, that we hit it off, that we had things in common.
My Little Brother was around 7 years old when I met him. His mother warned me he was quiet, but that was a ferocious understatement. He just flat wouldn’t talk to me. I said hello, I introduced myself, I asked him questions, and he sat, bowl-cut blonde hair in his eyes, baseball cap pulled down, not speaking, barely looking at me.
Great. The kid hates me. My heart sank. I was the worst Big Sister ever. Well, even non-speaking kids gotta eat, so I offered to take him to lunch. I don’t remember him saying much, but I do remember he liked my car, a tiny white Honda CRX. In a voice barely above a whisper, he stopped in front of his house and asked, “Is that your car?” When I said yes, he smiled, the first smile he gave me. Then he quickly went back to not talking. I don’t even think he said good-bye to me when I dropped him off later.
I didn’t run for the hills. I came back, then came back again, and sometimes, his brothers came along with us so he would feel more comfortable. I showed him my dorm room, walked around campus with him, played video games, took him to museums, and ate more hot dogs at his favorite restaurant than I ever cared to eat in a lifetime.
We got stuck in football traffic one day and no matter how hard I tried to find my way out of the tractor beam of stadium traffic, we were redirected and rerouted by traffic cops until we were forced to drive to the stadium. I apologized for the detour, but turns out it was the coolest thing that could have happened to us. He sat up, watching the cars, the people, the fans, the police, all the activity and energy, the massive stadium. He was impressed I knew the traffic cop I stopped to ask how to get out of the stadium traffic (I worked for campus police at the time and knew pretty much everyone directing traffic).
He was my Little Brother for 2 years, then I graduated and moved about an hour and a half away for graduate school. Since our relationship was well established, Big Brothers Big Sisters let us alter our schedule a bit and get together every two weeks instead of every week. I worked, took my graduate classes, and traveled every other weekend to spend time with him. His mother told me that he liked to brag that his Big Sister drove an hour and a half just to see him.
When I got married to my now ex-husband, my Little Brother and his family came to the wedding. I had pictures of him and me outside the church, playing and laughing, but my ex and his second wife chose to destroy all of the wedding pictures, including the ones of me and my Little Brother. Real classy. Not hard to fathom why he is a distant ex now. I really wish I still had those pictures.
When my then-husband and I moved to another state, the distance was much greater. I had no choice: I had to contact Big Brothers Big Sisters and let them know I couldn’t be his Big Sister anymore. They talked to his mom to let her know the game plan for the transition, and I went to see him to tell him and to say good-bye. Last I heard about him, he was on a waiting list for a Big Brother to replace me.
That was about 19 years ago. I kept all the school pictures he had given me, and I still had pictures I had taken of him and his brothers and little sister. One day, flipping through an album, I saw those pictures and wondered where he is now.
Through the magic of Facebook, I found him. On a logical scale, of course I knew he was much older than the little boy I had seen last, but it was still a shock to see a tall, young man with a full beard and a son of his own staring back at me from the computer screen. I sent a friend request with a message: Do you remember me?
Turns out he did. We messaged each other through Facebook, what we’ve been up to for 19 years, how things are going. I recently posted some of those old pictures, and he and his brothers are having a good time picking on each other and writing smart-ass comments. His mother saw the pictures and sent me a friend request too.
I was thinking of contacting the Big Brothers Big Sisters office that matched us and let them know we reconnected after all these years. It seems like they would like to know that.
I’m happy to see him smiling in so many pictures, still close to his family. I don’t have to look very hard to still see that little boy’s face under the beard. And it makes me laugh to think how far we’ve come from a shy little boy who wouldn’t speak a single word to his nervous-wreck Big Sister.. who happened to have a kind of cool car!