Quiet Time, A Cup of Coffee and My Brother

I don’t think anyone who knows me now would describe me as a shy person. I’m often the first to admit that I’m pretty chatty and extroverted. My son once famously told my husband that he thought my mouth was going to fall off because I was talking to so many people for so long at a party.

There are a few people though who did know me when I was very shy – painfully shy. Up until about the age of nine or ten, I really didn’t say much at all. I remember back then when someone would try to engage me in a conversation or even just ask me a question, it actually pained me to open my mouth and try to answer them. Most of the time I stood next to my brother only 14 months my senior and shrugged my shoulders waiting for him to speak for me, which he always faithfully did.

Even today though with all the chatting I do, I still enjoy some quiet time. I think most people do. For me quiet time comes in the early morning hours sitting at my computer when I’m awake before everyone else in my house. This time gives me a chance to think, to write, to respond to emails and the like. My only companion then is a coffee mug I love filled with strong coffee I love even more. The mug is always one from a set that my brother (and my original voice) bought for my husband and me off of our wedding registry many years go.

The mug is yellow (one of my favorite colors for all things home) and it’s sturdy yet whimsical and fun – qualities I like in both things and people. The mug, made by Villeroy and Boch, is most similar to this one and was purchased way back in 1999 when my brother was holed away studying torts and contracts in law school in the Midwest while I was working in magazine marketing in New York City and planning (or really watching my mother plan) my wedding.

Back then my brother and I still spoke on the phone regularly but it was not our closest sibling time period. We’ve always been close that’s for sure. Our family doctor once told our aunt that he never saw two siblings more caring and attentive towards each other than us when we were kids. He may have been right about that. My brother did look out for me (speaking for me when I couldn’t or wouldn’t) and calling me out across our high school’s large outdoor campus when he’d see me across the way waving and yelling out loud “love you pal.”

He was, like in the case of so many siblings, my first friend. And also, like so many siblings, my first competitor. His claim that he always had it harder than me insisting that 5th grade was way harder than 4th grade and law school harder than business school used to really get to me. And then I’d hold that against him bottling it up deep down inside until I couldn’t stand it anymore unleashing on him when I’d least expect to like while we were visiting the Supreme Court in Washington DC a long time ago the weekend of our cousin’s wedding. My husband thinks I may be on some kind of do not enter list for visitors to the Supreme Court. It’s possible.

My brother’s also been known to unleash on me most likely at times when he’s let things bottle up inside him and has to let it out on someone. That someone is me. I understand why. We know each other so well for better or for worse and we also know that we will always be there for each other. These moments blow over and we make up.

We remember the examples set by both of our parents who were and are unusually close to their respective siblings. We also remember what my father always said and continues to say to us – that we should always be each other’s best friends and that we will have each other long after our parents are gone. We’ve already known that to be true in the case of my mother.

I think about my brother sometimes during my morning quiet time with the coffee mug he gave me in hand. The mug is not always the same one – after all each mug is part of a set of 12. Some mugs are stained, scratched or even cracked – signs of over usage, wear and tear, the passing of time and also of love, loyalty and strength. Kind of like the relationship I have with him. Perhaps that’s why I love them so much?