Being a little sister is perhaps one of the greatest pleasures I have ever known. My very best childhood memories are with Big Nate and No 2 (because I respect what No 2 does for a living, and I love him dearly, I will in NO way try and sabotage his professional life with trivial blog posts, and since Big Nate could care less. . .the post begins). They taught me about Billy Squire, Queen, Steve Winwood, Roxy Music, Thin Lizzy, Bad Company, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and the list goes on.

Throughout my childhood I always identified with No 2 more than Big Nate. Big Nate was great as all “Big Nates” are, but he was a figment of my young mind. No 2 was the brother that walked me to Kindergarten and babysat me on the few nights that my mama went to see her friends. We watched M*A*S*H and hung out with his high school buddies. While I have fond memories of life with No 2, my best memories are with both of them.

Christmas of 1984, Junction, TX

If you look up weather records then you will find that this was indeed one of the coldest times in our state’s history. Because I was six years old, I had no idea. Fortunately, my big brothers knew it was historic, and they were not going to let their little sister read about it in historical weather journals. It was a quiet Christmas morning and the last we would have as our small family unit on the Llano River, Big Nate, Arlis, No 2, and Mama.

My family has always valued independence, so it was expected that I knew how to dress for such an epic day. I put on my boots (without socks), jeans, and a sweater. We gathered the essentials of our group which were siblings only and headed out for one of the most favorite days of my life.

Right before my dad died, he brought home a sweet Sheltie puppy that my family name Tiffy. She was part of the sibling entourage too. We made our way to the edge of our land and say a spectacular site: The formerly running Llano River was frozen. My six-year-old mind insisted that we put our dog on the ice to test out ice skating possibilities. My brothers dutifully obliged after testing heavy rocks. Once our dog was in the middle of the ice, we heard cracks that echoed across the rocks. We yelled and screamed for her to come back. Fortunately, she did. But she left quite a path of cracked ice in her wake. (This story is boring for anyone who does not understand the true historic nature of the weather….but nevertheless….my story continues.)

As we hiked across crevices and large rocks on a frozen Christmas day, my boots started to give way. I guess it was my left boot that rendered nails through my heel. Brother No 2 took off his shoe and gave me his sock in the subzero temperature of a gorgeous sunny day. As I stuffed the sock down into my boot, I brazenly asked him for his other sock for my other boot “just in case.” The look on his face told me I never should have asked for more than what I needed that day. And there began a lesson; it is a lesson I hold dear to my heart.

We explored culverts that I never knew existed. We were the masters of the Llano River on Christmas day of 1984, and I will forever cherish my time with Big Nate and No 2 (as my six-year-old my memory is scattered yet grateful). They showed me all the things they explored long before I was ever born. I was on their terrain, yet they made sure I felt like I was the master of their wild backyard that they had long hiked before I was a blip on the radar. (I am forever thankful that they did not ask me to hunt for “snipe” for I loved them enough that I would have died trying to please them on the Llano River.)

Fast forward to brothers in college and my mom and I moving to West Texas

Summer of 1986, San Marcos, TX

Homesick for some river time as only those of you that have lived in West Texas can imagine, my mom put me on a plane when I was eight to fly from Amarillo to Austin to be with my beloved brothers for part of summer.

Big Nate picked me up from the airport in Austin. We immediately went to Sandy’s to get butterscotch milkshakes. Nothing sweeter had ever touched my lips. We talked about swimming in various hotel pools around town, but eventually he dumped me at No 2’s place in San Marcos.

Once No 2 was responsible for my wellbeing, he asked Big Nate what my re-initiation should be to Central Texas. They joked and laughed about all the things they could do to “little sister.” Fortunately, I had no fear of the two men I idolized. At my young age, I appreciated the bullshit that siblings were subjected to. After all, it was No 2’s college friend who picked me up stating he would decapitate me in the ceiling fan of our family room. Ever cautious, ever weary, I almost never believed most of the teasing remarks that came from the numerous other “big brothers” I had throughout my childhood. (Now might be a good time to interject that Big Nate was 19 when I was born, and No 2 was 15, and yes we all have the same parents.) However, I always proceeded with childlike caution and fear. It was my trademark of childhood. Ultimately, we didn’t really grow up together. These sacred moments carved in time were ours away from rituals of dinner, bedtime, or Saturday chores.

One day when neither of their college schedules prevented them from doing anything other than float the incredibly gorgeous San Marcos River, they both decided that I needed to float the river from the Falls at Aquarena Springs to as far as the day would allow us to go. Because I had never been on such an excursion other than the Christmas of ’84, they decided I needed the ultimate pimp ride. Before the days of Disney Princesses and the like, they grabbed a queen air mattress from their camping gear, aired it up, and plopped me on top.

Our journey began; my eyes have never been wider, wanting to take in all of the splendors that only the San Marcos River has to offer. They swam nearby, keeping a watchful eye on me. Maybe I knew how to swim, maybe not, but only my hands and feet touched the water. No 2 wanted me to drink from the river. I was reluctant, but he insisted the water was the cleanest around. And so I did, and as that cold water touched my lips, I felt like I belonged to them. I was their little sister, and they belonged to me.

They dove deep to bring up treasures to show me. They competed over crawfish and shells, trying to find the best ones available. I obliged telling them both how marvelous their river treasures were, but my real river treasures swam beside me that day. They are two of the greatest treasures of my life.

We floated for hours on what can only be described as a perfect day. I owned the river because they protected me from it. When I was scared they coached me back to calmer waters as they lovingly still do. The beauty of the river does not compete with the beauty of my memory.

I am grateful for a childhood absent of modern day technology, it allows me to cherish some of the best days of my life that can only be shared through words, memory, and a little imagination.

When we reached an end to our floating trip, there was a huge (I was eight) waterfall. They both dove together into the river, and I literally held my breath hoping, wanting my hero-brothers to resurface. And they always have resurfaced in the brightest and darkest moments of my life. I am grateful for two incredible men that have showed me what it feels like to be loved like the daughter that I never was to them; I am and will forever be a little sister.

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