On the morning of my brother’s college graduation, my mom, my dad and I scrambled out of the inn we were staying at in order to try and get to San Luis Obispo on time. Over a soggy continental breakfast and acidic Folgers coffee, my mom began to reminisce. Her eyes got a little teary, as she talked of the days when her children weren’t in college.
When we were kids, my brother and I use to beat the shit out of each other. We were constantly bickering and pulling at each others hair — but somehow, my mom was able to find and keep for herself those few moments as kids when we got along.
There was one memory in particular my mom pulled out — our family would go to Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art when we were younger, and despite how different we all were from each other, we could always agree to go to a museum together. My mom took a little breath and sighed thinking about those good old days. I laughed, because the good old days weren’t really as picturesque as they seemed to exist in my mom’s head.
Last winter, I had been waiting to go to the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA for months. It was raining pretty hard the day our family all piled into the car to drive up to Los Angeles. Though we were adults, my brother and I still managed to get into a raging argument in the back seat about something I can’t even recall. I just remember my mom being so angry at us that by the time we got to LACMA, she stopped the car in front, told me and my dad to get out, and drove away with Andy to go to some car museum instead.
As my dad and I walked into the exhibit, I rubbed the bruises blooming on my arm. I had been so angry at my brother that I just paced around the museum until I cleared my head. My dad gave me a few half-hearted pats on the back, trying not to indulge the petty sibling rivalry.
After about 20 minutes, I had gotten over myself enough to enjoy the exhibition. There were props and trinkets from the prolific director’s movies all over the space. The exhibition had been created to look like the director’s home in LA, which he self-titled as the Bleak House, after the Charles Dickens novel. Despite the bruises and the hot head, I found myself like I always seem to — lost in the exhibit. As my dad and I cruised around the labyrinth of knick-knacks, fine art, and taxidermic odds and ends, I couldn’t help but think about how much the space resembled my brother’s childhood room.
Even though we didn’t have the best relationship, it never stopped me from going into his room and rustling around in the oddities I would find. He had scorpion paperweights and vintage toy cars and toxic metal paints. He had bizarre sketches shoved underneath broken hackie sacks and decade old vans. As I rummaged through my brothers weird little odds and ends, he became my first muse.
Maybe it was because he was the older sibling, or maybe it was because he was just so different from me, but there was always this sense of mysticism that my brother held to me.
He had always been a reckless kid. As I locked myself away and studied for hours, my brother would be out partying or racing cars or doing something I was never ballsy enough to do. The only time I’d ever get the full story was when my parents would call me from some hospital saying Andy had crashed his car or broken his nose again. But no matter what happened, he’d still come sauntering home, grinning wide enough to show his chipped front tooth. I wanted to be that carefree. I wanted to be creative and funny and like my brother had been, so I channeled that into my art as a kid.
At his graduation, after about an hour of names being called, my brother came running from the football field, his gown haphazardly unzipped. My mom was confused, because she didn’t even hear his name get called.
“Mom, it’s because I wrote that my name was pronounced Guayaki Yerba Mate.”
My mom smacked his head as we walked out, and he flashed her that chipped tooth grin that always got us to laugh. As we followed my brother on his bike, riding back to his house, I laughed at his gown and hat whipping behind him. Despite the fighting and the arguing, I can’t help but still smile at my brother’s goofiness. Even through all the ups and downs, I’m still in awe of my brother. I can’t help but be proud to be Andy’s little sister.
Annalise Kamegawa writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on a life of shifting artistic identities. Contact her at [email protected].