John-Boy. When I was very young, I looked forward to the weekly television series, The Waltons, as I enjoyed watching how the family members interacted with one another, especially John-Boy with his younger sisters. I liked how he was portrayed by Richard Thomas, who originated the role in the series.

I looked up to John-Boy and, at the same time, I felt that I could identify with him. He was a quiet and sensitive soul, had good manners, respected his elders, cared about his family, wasn't afraid of hard work, and - most importantly of all - wanted to be a writer. He wasn't especially handsome although there was an attractive (to me, anyway) quality about him, a boyish quality. And as my maternal Grandmother used to call me Anne-Girl, I later thought what a coincidence it was.

I liked John-Boy. I wanted an older brother like him, exactly the way he was with his siblings, especially his sisters, and I also found that he and I had something in common. I wasn't a boy but I very much identified with him in some ways. I didn't think there was anything odd about it. It was just the way it was. At that time, even if they were based on real people, young female characters in the television families left much to be desired as they almost always seemed to be boisterous tom-boys or pretty girls who knew what they wanted in life and were popular with the boys. I suppose if they were always quiet and kept to themselves, there wouldn't be much of a story, anyway.

I wished I had a John-Boy in my life. I wished I had an older brother that cared deeply about me and we would be able to confide in one another and I could go to him, without hesitation, about whatever problems I had in my life. I wanted an older brother to run after me, asking me what was wrong. I wanted an older brother who took time to sit and talk with me. Or maybe I just watched too many family dramas on television.

During a period when I was very much into reading comics about super heroes, I took it upon myself to create my own super heroes: three brothers and one sister. It wasn't enough to write about a regular, close-knit family. I had to turn them into super heroes as well. That made them even more unique. And I wanted them to be unique; I wanted my fictitious siblings to be special individuals who not only cared about each other but also about the world around them. And in my story, the sister - who was named Jano - was a caring, independent individual who was sure of herself and knew what to do in every situation, or at least, wasn't afraid to try. Or maybe she had confidence partly because she knew she had her super powers to rely on.

In my mind, I knew which brother I had modelled which character on. And even though I also had a younger brother in real life, I seemed rather selfish and was intent on making myself the youngest sibling, looking up to three older brothers.

I don't remember the circumstances but when we were younger and living at home, my oldest brother once told me that I could go to him and my second oldest brother if I needed to talk. He mentioned my third brother as well but added it might not be such a good idea to seek advice from him. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps my oldest brother was trying even then, letting his younger sister know that she was not alone and could go to him if she wanted to. I never did, of course. Not really. It just wasn't the way we were brought up. Or maybe just not the way our relationships evolved over the years. There was a lot of teasing, to be sure, and maybe the teasing caused me to be somewhat wary of them while I still daydreamed of that "perfect" older brother.

I always remember my brothers. And I think of them often. It is the same with my uncle, my mother's younger brother, who lived with us while we were all growing up. My mother's younger sister, too, lived with us, and I was quite close to her as well, but I seemed to gravitate towards my uncle. These were the men in my life, apart from my father, men that I actually felt safe with, even with all the teasing and hair-pulling that I endured as a child.

I can't say that I know them very well for we seem to be a private family. So they don't really know me either. I suppose that they think they do. And perhaps they do, to a certain degree.

Maybe that is why I write about my brothers so much. For I wish that things could have been different. We are no longer the five children living in the same household but five adults leading different lives, away from one another. And even though family gatherings are always a joy to attend whenever I visit family back home, I know that once I leave, we all go back to our own lives, and I wonder when I'll see them again.

And even with all the teasing during our childhood and teens, I never felt that I had to be fearful of them. Neither was I fearful of my uncle. If anything, I enjoyed the closeness he and I shared and I could even write volumes about different incidents and some of the correspondence over the years.

My brothers are not super heroes. Neither am I. They do not possess superhuman strength nor any special powers. Neither do I. During that time, while I was searching for my ideal big brother, I wonder if any of them ever wished that I were a different sort of younger - and older - sister. It would be only fair, wouldn't it, considering the countless hours I spent daydreaming and writing about my "other" brother.

That ideal older brother seems to be a recurring character in some of my stories. He has to be there. And I want him there, just as I'd always wanted him in my own life. To be fair, there were times when one of my brothers would express his affection through a word or deed. There were times when I was so aware of it. But there were also the times when there seemed to be a slight discomfort or it didn't seem to be enough. Or maybe both sides were trying to find their way to the other. We played together as children, to be sure, like brothers and sisters do. We laughed and argued; we teased and pouted. And I know they cared.

But I still searched for "him" or wrote about "him". Looking back, maybe I was so locked into the idea of my fictional character that I forgot to look outwards and realise that they were right in front of me. They were there, all right. But something in me wanted much more.

I wonder if they did too. We are so alike and at the same time, so different, that it is hard to tell.

I can't stop writing about them. I suppose I never will.

 

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Super Heroes

Teens From Bulvaria
When I was thirteen, I wrote a story about four siblings who were from another galaxy. They were from the planet Bulvaria in the Trixanite Galaxy. Not very imaginative, I know, but it was what came to mind after a while and I seemed awfully pleased with the name of their home planet - as well as the galaxy - so I stuck with it. Writing science fiction was obviously not my forte.

They were three older brothers and a younger sister who were gifted with extraordinary powers. The four teenagers, minus their parents, were a close family and - as I'd written in the story itself - "were trasmitted to Earth, in the city Grayville, by way of the travel beam." (I was only thirteen.) They were Beno, aged 17, Milo, aged 15, Karl, aged 14, and Jano, aged 13. They were the exact ages as my older brothers and I and they resembled the rest of us in every way except for the special powers that they possessed.

I enjoyed reading comics about super heroes during that period of my life so why not create my own characters? And that was what I did.
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