Modern Nostalgia · Nostalgia · Stories

I’ll Take Then and Now for $200, Alex


“… the night dropped down until the only sounds were the crickets & the dance of our voices…” – Brian Andreas

I’m six, it’s late, and I can’t sleep.

Most nights I can’t, so this is nothing new.

Enough light from the moon shines into the room to make out the small heart-shaped flowers that adorn my wallpaper. The window is open, and I can hear the crickets singing in the night heat.

I consider going to get my mom, but I did that last night, so I wonder if my brother Kurt is up. I quietly slide out of my bed and pad down the hall toward his room. As I near his door, I see a faint yellow sliver at its base, so I push it open. He’s awake, the top of his head tenting his covers, a flashlight on underneath, no doubt a book in his hands.

Kurt,” I whisper.

He is used to this, and he pulls back the blanket by way of a yes.

I climb up next to him, really awake now, and ask if we can play a game. Jeopardy is our old stand-by.

“The color of dad’s hair,” Kurt says, doing his best Alex Trebek imitation.

Though Kurt is ornery during the day, at nighttime he becomes more patient and kind, and he only gives me answers I will know the questions to. And though I am young, I am old enough to know the rules of Jeopardy.

“What is black?!” This trivia was an easy one, but I’m still proud I know it.

“Ding! Ding! Ding!” Kurt says. “You just got the Daily Double!”

When we have grown tired of playing Jeopardy, we gather the edge of the sheet in our hands and hold it up over us. After we count to three, we let go. It drifts down and settles over us, its thin layer just enough cover in the warm, summer air that lingers in his room. We do this over and over. Minutes seem like hours.

A lucky little sister to a caring big brother.

I always wanted to be just like my brother; Circa 1988.

And, later, when I grow tired and my tiny body curls up next to his, I finally sleep. Truth be told, I hated being by myself at night. . . . I used to think that my stuffed animals were going to come alive when I fell asleep. My dad once had to put a stuffed bear in my closet so I didn’t think it would come get me. Kurt was my protector. Maybe he didn’t know it, but that sure was how I felt.

Growing older, Kurt and I turned into two teenagers who couldn’t have been more different. Because we were four years apart in age, we never attended school together beyond our elementary years. After moving to the Midwest the summer before my freshman year of high school, Kurt stayed back in the south to attend college; we weren’t there to help each other as we navigated the challenges of our now separate lives. We of course would see each other at Christmas and sometimes during the summer. But our life trajectories were no longer aligned as they had been as kids.

And then we turned into adults. Our different lifestyles, interests, and demands made it exceedingly difficult to stay close. The years of distance in who we were and where we were took their toll.

And it made me miss our childhood.  It made me miss those warm summer nights when I couldn’t sleep and we played Jeopardy and feeling like I had someone to protect me from . . . well . . . from feeling alone. From feeling scared.

Fortunately, in the past few years, our lives are intersecting again, and I am grateful.  We now live a quick plane ride from one another, and between the two of us, we have three children, stairsteps at the ages of 7, 6 and (almost) 5. When we are together and I watch Kurt interact with the kids, I’m reminded of why—despite his orneriness as a child and the way he would sometimes torment me (as any good sibling does)—I always adored him when we were younger. He’s goofy and silly and quirky, but also kind, gentle, and loving.

Spending time with him now, I remember how grateful I used to feel having his company and companionship during my childhood days and nights, and I’m grateful now that he’s turned into so much more than just my big brother. He’s my daughter Zoey’s favorite—and only—uncle, and most importantly, he’s my friend.  

Our journeys have diverged for a long time, but my nostalgia for our days together as children growing up in a house full of love, respect, and happiness, help me create a greater connection with Kurt today.

So I ask you today, fellow nostalgia seekers, who from your childhood—a sibling, a parent, a friend—do you look back on and feel a sense of love, respect, and happiness? That warm, fuzzy, joyful feeling when you knew you were loved, safe, and protected? Did your life’s journey separate you from those people? Have you found your way back into their hearts and minds? Have they found their way back into yours?

If not, today would be a good day to begin using your past to create better days today. Reach out to those you loved. Reminisce with them. Honor where you came from and the happiness you felt as children and reconnect with them.

Then start creating more memories so that when you look back twenty years from now, you remember not only the “then” when you were children, but you remember the “now” as adults with the same sense of simple, happy nostalgia.

And that, my friends, is something far from trivial…






13 thoughts on “I’ll Take Then and Now for $200, Alex

  1. Awe this is such a sweet post! I always look back and sadly wish I could live some of those days again – so with a family of my own, I realize how sometimes as little as a moment may seem, my kids may never forget it & look back to it with longing. Thank you for sharing this! xx

  2. This is such a touching story. I am so glad you live closer to your brother now. My sister and I are four years apart and now that we are grown we are best friends. Siblings are the best.

  3. This is beautifully written. Sibling relationships are so complex and yet are some of my most treasured relationships. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. This is beautiful. I love your blog! Definitely my siblings made me feel safe and loved as a child. I have 3 siblings, 1 older sister and 2 younger brothers. It was my younger brother directly under me who I was closest to. Now it’s the youngest one. Sadly my sister and I didn’t have a great relationship and still don’t. Maybe, one day 🙂

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