Ty has decided that Pele is the greatest soccer player on earth, that the plural of 'kitten' should be kitteroni. He no longer wants to be a novelist, but perhaps an athlete or a chef--on a recent camping trip he made dinner, hamburger meat and fish mixed together in a mustard sauce, which Molly ate, heroically. At the brown desk in his bedroom he studies genealogy, looking over spread-out ancestral charts and family trees with his reading glasses on, collecting especially good names to be passed down to descendants (Leon, Harry). He refuses to watch bad TV with us--says The Bachelor is disrespectful to women, and while the truth of this observation does not stop Mom and me from taping the show on Monday nights, we feel proud of my brother's goodness, his noble opinions, and we hope he will always be this way.
That's impossible, of course. Ty is twelve, the same age I was when I went to my first middle school dance. I wore brown lip gloss and a floor-length velvet skirt, held onto Eddie's shoulders with my arms completely outstretched. Ty says his dances aren't really like that, the boys and the girls don't talk, they stand on opposite sides of the room and eat snacks--but soon, I know, things will change. I was almost nine when Ty was born, old enough to hold him the way adults do, with his head propped up the right way. It's a biggish age gap, one that has made it impossible for me to give up calling him by his baby nickname. Jordan and I are two years apart, close enough to scheme and fight together in equal measure, but toward Ty I've always felt protective--more than a sister but less than a mother. In the fall, for the first time, both Jordan and I will be away at college and Ty will be at home. This is the hardest part about leaving: that there will be years of career changes and fresh haircuts and dubious made-up meals before Ty leaves too, that I will experience them only over the phone. He's been once to Vassar, where he ate snow and took photos on the front steps of dorms, but I am not sure how much he remembers it. I wonder if it is as unsettling for him as it is for me to have a sibling across the country, living a life almost unimaginably different--unimaginable not because of what it is, exactly, but because I am not there to see it.