My 7-year-old brother is the type of kid who can stay entertained for hours playing with a couple low-tech toys while humming and talking to himself. Quietness in other kids is usually a sign they’re destroying something, but my brother is exceptionally good and gentle. I know I’ll have to toughen him up when he gets older.
One night I popped into the living room to see him watching television with a rolled-up piece of paper in his hand. It was cream-colored and a bit large, like a small poster. I asked him what he was doing.
“Nothing, just watching T.V.”
“Cool,” I said.
My 14-year-old brother was on the couch with his laptop. I’m pretty sure he surfs porn on it, but I have no proof, and don’t actually care. As long as he’s not gay.
I started to leave the room when I thought, “Wait, where did the little guy get a poster?” I turned back around.
“What are you playing with?” I asked him.
“I don’t know it’s nothing. I found it downstairs.” He was putting it on his mouth like it was a blow horn, and using it to knock down his Hot Wheel cars from the coffee table. The edges were slightly crumpled.
“Mind if I take a look?”
“Okay but I want it back. It’s mine because I found it first.”
I grabbed the rolled-up paper. It was of thick stock, and didn’t have a glossy coating that most posters have. I slowly opened it up and saw my name spelled out in a calligraphy font. It can’t be. Right below my name were the words “Bachelors of Science” and then “Microbiology.” It was my college diploma.
I flashed a dirty look to my other brother. “You idiot while you were digging for books you must have left my diploma out. Now it has drool on it, thanks.”
He started laughing and said, “That’s so funny!” I gave him a stone-faced stare and then he made a conscious effort to hold back his laughter. “Hey it wasn’t my fault! You know him—he touches everything!”
“Can I have it back now?” the little guy said.
“No you cannot have it back. This is not a toy, this is my college diploma. I spent four years and twenty thousand dollars to get this.”
“What is a diplomo?”
“A diploma is something you get because your parents tell you that’s what you should do, and then you wake up one day and realize that you change your mind and…” I trailed off when I saw him furrowing his brows. I pride myself on always being honest to my little brothers, but I don’t want to confuse them with my existential speeches. “It’s just something that says you finished a lot of school and can now get a job.”
My dad came into the room to see what the commotion was. I told him the story and he scolded the little guy until his upper lip started trembling, a sign that he’s about to cry. I looked at my dad and said, “Pops, it’s really okay. It’s not like I’m going to use it again anyway.”