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My Brother, My Hero

By Jana’ Gilstrap


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Thoughts raced through my mind at the speed of light. What was my brother trying to do? As a four year old I didn’t know what to believe and what to question. This seemed insane. Jarom, a seven year old full of whacky whatnots, was setting up the orange laundry basket as a table in our front yard. The green grass seemed to accent the obscurity of the basket with its ‘Origami Lessons 25 ’ sign crudely hanging from the edge of the overturned basket. Paper ships, three-cornered hats, cranes and little boxes were strewn over the top of this little table with more paper sitting on the grass waiting to be folded. Jarom was adamantly and without the least bit reserved in showing off his skills of origami. I could only imagine how neat it would be to know how to fold the paper hat; then I could color it and use it for show and tell in class on Tuesday.

I boldly walked over to my brother and begged him to show me how to make a paper hat. I am his sister; I shouldn’t have to pay the quarter for lessons. After all, where was a four year old supposed to get a quarter anyway? Much talking and begging did me no good when Jarom curtly stated, "You gotta pay the quarter. This is a business and these are my skills; without the money you don’t get the service." Stunned and disappointed I gaped at Jarom in total and complete disbelief. Who does he think he is not teaching his own sister how to make a three-cornered hat? Tears started to roll down my face. Quite perturbed, I drudgingly walked away. I could clearly see that this was a job for the Supreme Justices, Mom and Dad. They would solve the problem for me; they would make Jarom show me how to fold origami!

The battle was fought swiftly and safely, thanks to Mom who had the ingenious idea of giving me a quarter as a trade for ten minutes of extra chores. Soon I found I had the cold hard quarter sitting in the palm of my dirty four year old hands. Triumphantly marching back to Jarom, I flashed my quarter towards him declaring my win and demanding his business.

My brother wasn’t used to losing; in fact, he never seemed to lose, but he wasn’t about to be a sore loser. As much as he didn’t want to, Jarom showed be how to make origami hats and boats. Through the years Jarom has shown and taught me many different things whether he wanted to or not and whether he realized it or not. Self-confidence and self-assurance are just two of the attributes I have quietly gone about observing and trying to emulate from him. He also has a very fun personality. There is never a dull moment when this tall, blonde hair, green-eyed person is around. He doesn’t worry about what people think of him, but what he can get them to think about. Jarom continually has creative ideas running through his mind. During the summer, when boredom always seemed so abundant, my brother’s ideas were never ending.

All through the summer of 1993, Jarom - a current baseball addict - couldn’t resist the temptation of playing little league baseball. He had a passion for baseball that spread through the family like the flu virus taking over. Not only playing baseball was fun for Jarom, but he fell in love with baseball card collecting. His whole goal was to collect all the big names: Babe Ruth, Lou Gherigh, Darryl Strawberry and the rest of the best. One of the hot summers after noon day Jarom, Katie, and I decided to make our own baseball card that would someday be famous.

It took us hours of rummaging through the garage to round up what would work as umpire padding, catchers mask and mitt, baseball bat, bases and a camera. The photo shoot sight was our living room with the piano as the fencing behind the catcher. I was the umpire with my visor, brush to sweep the bases clean, white shirt and of course my skirt. Katie was the catcher; she had a helmet, catchers’ mitt and sneakers. Jarom was the star batter; he was completely decked out in his team jersey, white shin-length pants, cleats, and wooden bat. Mom was our professional photographer. On the count of three we each hit our poses. Within minutes we had the famous Polaroid in our hands. Our baseball card came together with the borders of another less valuable card and the back of a card with good batting averages; before we knew it, the very first, and only, Gilstrap family baseball card was completed.

Although our card never made it to the baseball card packages or the Hall of Fame, it did, however, keep us entertained for a whole after noon and is still bringing back good memories every time we find it. As we grew older, our times together grew even more interesting and complex. With the ideas of Jarom, and the support of Katie and me, we hiked many mountains, went on many bike rides, made many batches of chocolate chip cookies, but most importantly: we kept Mom on her toes with the many summer adventures we had.

During the summer of 1997, we were living in a large house in Bloomington Hills. This house was great just because it had a basement; the ideas of summer fun were endless when stairs were involved. This particular day, Jarom wanted to test out the durability of eggs when dropped from the first floor to the basement. Jarom even went as far as to make rules up for this game: we only had one hour to package our eggs into shock absorbers, only tape, plastic bags, rubber bands, etc. could be used in the packaging of our eggs, only raw eggs could be used, and it had to be packaged tight enough so the egg wouldn’t break and make a mess in the house. Once the rules were set and the eggs packaged, the game was underway. There was a series of tests the eggs had to pass. Test number one: drop the egg from the first floor to the basement with force. Test number two: throw the egg against the brick wall if it didn’t break from test number one. Test number three: throw egg into the air and let gravity bring it down. Test number four: if packaged good enough to make it this far, the mallet was going to be used with force against the egg.

My egg broke after test number one; my packaging was flawed. Katie’s egg lasted through test number three; it would have lasted through test number four, but the gravity from test number three took her bag to the roof of the house. Jarom’s egg, however, went through all the tests; test number four finally brought his egg to its end. Jarom usually did win when he was making up these games.

Be it eggs, baseball, or an orange laundry basket, Jarom is still oozing with ideas. He served a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil where letters poured in from missionary companions, friends and members of the church each telling us different things Jarom has done for them and how he has made a difference in their lives. Our two year absence of Jarom was followed by a quick week of having him around before he moved to Salt Lake City to attend the University of Utah. When Jarom visits home he is his same old self doing and saying whacky whatnots.

Jarom has been a very influential person in my life. He has helped me grow and become who I am today simply by being an example. To this day I have never told him how much I have appreciated his presence in my life. We talk at least once a week and share with each other our failures and successes; even though we are three years apart we still give each other advice for different areas such as dating, schoolwork, our jobs and even church callings. This relationship will continue and Jarom will always be having his ideas whether it is with his immediate family, roommates, or friends; wherever Jarom goes fun will follow.


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