Today we celebrate the birth of both our dad and our brother Joseph. My dad always says Joseph was the best gift he's ever received. But this month I got him a wine of the month box, so maybe now he'll stop saying that. (Just kidding.) Our blog was designed to support sisterhood and to share our experiences as sisters. But brothers and need love and appreciation too - especially brothers like ours. Since Joe regularly follows our blog, we wanted to write a little tribute to him because he's the best brother in the world.
When I was in kindergarten, I got an orange Kitty Kitty Kitten, my first and only yellow light for bad behavior, and a baby brother. I was pulled out of naptime at school (score) to go meet him for the first time. I remember sitting with Kath on our nubby Southwest-inspired couch, waiting to hold him.
Kath got to hold him first, and I was furious. My face got hot and I felt the start of tears, but I knew I’d miss my turn to hold him if I ran to my room, so I waited. Kath held him for what felt like forever, and then finally my mom passed him to me.
He is the first baby I can remember holding. I have held lots of babies in my life- NICU babies sporting nasogastric tubes, wailing babies waiting for their nursing mamas to get into position, my own babies in my womb and in my arms. But Joseph Edwin Schluter, with his downy, dark hair and his scrunchy face that resembled my own- he was the first.
And what a first baby. As he grew, Kath and I tortured him by dressing him up in tiaras and princess gowns. We chased him around the house with cheese (his least favorite food). We convinced him to shove a Red Hot up his nose (resulting in an ER visit). He somehow lived through all that we had to throw at him and lots of what the rest of the world had to throw at him too.
He’s resilient and kind. He’s offered me his arms and ears after my heart was broken. He is endlessly creative and clever. He takes after me when it comes to math aptitude (none), and I almost committed homicide several times trying to tutor him. He once had a Cabbage Patch doll named David Frankie and a frog Beanie Baby named Eyes, and he lost them both to Hurricane Katrina. He recently acquired a beautiful, perfect, magnificent fiancée named Flora. He is strong and good. My little brother. My first baby. I am so proud.
I remember when Joseph was born too. I don’t remember specifics like holding him for the first time or what he looked like. What I remember is getting ready for a family photo shoot with the new baby, my mom dressing me in a floral pink outfit with a matching hat, and throwing a tantrum because I couldn’t shake the feeling that the world as I knew it was ending. I was a few months over two, and I was no longer the baby. (As a mom of two now with a toddler going through a similar struggle, this memory is alllll too real at the moment.)
From the moment he was born, Joseph’s life has taught me a number of things.
He taught me that having siblings means having to share, even when it’s the things we want most (mom and dad’s attention, the TV remote, the Power Rangers lounge chair, etc.)
He taught me to stand up for myself. One time when he was no older than 6 years old, he was at soccer practice and some mean kid started teasing him. The bully said something along the lines of, “I can spell all kinds of big words. I can spell elephant. I’ll bet you can’t spell elephant.” Joe retorted, “No, but I can spell shut up and go away.”
He taught me to love the good things in life—Star Wars, Lord of the Rings (and Tolkien in general), The Office, Dungeons and Dragons, the beauty in Hayao Miyazaki films, and all things video game related. And let’s be honest, those things and Jesus are all I really need to have a happy life, so these lessons have been invaluable.
He taught me how to love others unconditionally. I used to wonder why it is that our family is so close. And I think there are a number of reasons. But recently I realized that the main reason we’re so close is because Joe shows us how to love unconditionally. He really is the part of our family that makes us all feel, for lack of a more eloquent expression, warm and fuzzy. His hugs could heal. I remember my parents and he would go back and forth sometimes about him not getting his math homework done (see above) and like 10 minutes later he would hug them and everything was fine again. Even now, he’s the one sending the family group text thread random text messages saying, “I love my family,” or “I hope everyone has a great day today!” He truly has a heart of gold.
He has taught me that God’s plan is greater than we could ever imagine. We are a family of teachers. My mom and dad have both taught in schools since the time they graduated college basically. My sister makes her living by teaching people how to nourish their babies. The year my mom finished teaching, I started teaching the following fall. When I stopped teaching to stay home with Miriam, Joe took up the torch and is now in his second year serving as an educator. God uses him in extraordinary ways to teach his students about love, that following Jesus is still cool, and that being a hobbit is a good aspiration to have in life. It’s so cool to see how God’s plan has unfolded for our family in our time as educators, and I think it’s only fitting that Joseph has now taken on this task.
Lastly, he has taught me that love can conquer all things. My brother is the hopeless romantic of our family (and that’s saying something, especially if you know how much we all love Disney). When I look at the way he loves my parents, his siblings, his friends, his future wife, I am inspired to love in the same way. If you know Joe, you’ll come to understand that he believes we should all have a fairy tale life, but the only way we can live that is by understanding God’s love for us and loving him in return. Joe resolutely believes that our dreams can come true with God’s grace.
Even though it felt like my world was ending when Joe came into it, what I didn’t understand as a temper-prone toddler was that my new world was just beginning—a world in which a hug can heal, elves and wizards exist, and accepting God’s grace leads us to a better happily ever after than we could have dreamed up ourselves.