Friday, October 14, 2011

Family Ties

I remember a road trip when I was younger that I spent in the backseat of my brother's green Saturn.  I think we were going skiing (the ski trip I managed my most epic wipeouts ever, stories later) and my sister was riding shotgun.  I have a vivid image of sitting in the seat behind her, staring at the cd cover of DMB's Under the Table and Dreaming.  Satellite came on and I started singing along as quietly as I could.  The High Note (you know the one) came and Donald turned to look over his shoulder, "Was that you?  Did you just hit that note?"  I smiled back in confirmation and felt this swell of pride that my older brother, whom I'd spent my life looking up to and admiring, thought something I'd done as simple as singing in a range fitting for a pre-adolescent girl (no offense, Dave) was mildly impressive.

Before I loved DMB for their own merit I loved them because my siblings did.  As was the case with the vast majority of the things I loved.  My brother and sister are 10 and 7 years older than I am, respectively, and I spent my childhood looking up to them so hard my neck is still sore decades later.  If they loved Metallica, so help me I would ROCK that Master of Puppets tour shirt once it reached hand-me-down status, even though I was too young to appreciate the music the way they did.  Mario and Zelda drown me with waves of nostalgia, not because I dedicated my hours to playing them but because I couldn't think of anything I'd rather do than watch my siblings play.  Graphic novels line my bookshelves that I hold as dear as treasures because they were important to my brother first.  JMU will always be special to me because it's where my sister went to school and therefore the college I dreamed of attending.

Unfortunately my age made it difficult to keep up with them.  In my infancy to toddler years we were all of an age where I made a great dress up doll and photography test subject and they were happy to take advantage when it suited.  By the time I was old enough to want more than anything to go out with them and their friends to do-whatever-the-big-kids-do I was too young to participate and they were too old to want me along.  There was one Friday night in particular I closed myself in my bedroom, peeking through the blinds as they both got in the car, heading on some great  Cool Kid adventure, while I stayed home to watch TGIF through tear-filled eyes.  I don't remember any other time that stands out so vividly as that one where I was so upset I cried until I couldn't anymore.

Last night Laura called and asked if I'd go with her to a show at a live music coffee shop in Vienna.  Vienna is close enough to Sterling that you can make that kind of last minute trip without a lot of preparation but far enough to make it An Effort to go when it's pouring and past 7:30 pm on a work night.  A friend of hers and my brother's (Todd) who had been in a band called the Excentrics that they followed dutifully in high school and college was playing and she wanted to see it, but not if it meant flying solo.  I couldn't blame her, some activities just aren't worth it if you don't have company. 

Initially I resisted, hoping that someone else out of their group of friends would be in attendance.  When I got the call around 8:00 that no one else was up for the task I admit I had to willfully drag myself out of the house to go.  The weather made a long-ish but simple enough drive turn into one filled with u-turns when each of my subsequent route options turned up flooded.  Try number three was the one and I made it to Laura's house 45 minutes after we thought the show had started.  Luckily it was only 2 miles down the road and we were not so easily deterred. 

The show was great for so many reasons.  Laura got to have a change of scenery and be overwhelmed with teenage flashbacks.  The strange thing is, so did I.

I recognized the music because it had been a presence during my most impressionable years.  My brother, the amazing artistic talent that he is, designed the album art for 2 Excentrics cds, which to me made my brother akin to celebrity.  Not only was he friends with the band members but his work would live forever in a piece of their history.  Maybe not such a big deal when you reach a certain age but I hadn't reached that age yet, wouldn't for years and was easily impressed.  I'm still easily impressed.

During the show I had flashes of memories of Donald working hard on delivering great art, Laura going out with friends to local hang outs to catch their shows, years later playing the albums for the first time for myself and falling in love with the music the way both of them had years before.  It didn't hurt that Todd looked so much like Donald it felt like he was well represented even though he wasn't there with us.

Laura mentioned something on our way out that I had already thought about inside about half way through the show.  We ended up leaving before we got a chance to say hi to Todd, something I'd been hoping to do.  I wanted to smile at and shake the hand of someone who resides in little bitesbof my memory because of his relationship with two of my most favorite people in the world.  I jokingly thought and Laura jokingly said out loud that he would probably just be confused having never before heard or known that a third sibling even existed in the Bullach family.  Over the years I talked about my siblings to my friends all the time because they were SO COOL!  Their stories were my stories and I'd get high just from telling them.  I wouldn't blame Donald or Laura for never thinking to mention me much in their conversations with their friends, we were far enough apart in age and worlds that the two just wouldn't have naturally passed, but there's a part of me that will always hope in some tiny way I was as much a rock star to them as they always will be to me.


  1. I know how much you wanted to be older/closer. Sorry it just didn't work out that way.

  2. You are always great company, Amy! I was glad you came, not just to be a warm body, but because you are a good friend. =) (And you looked incredible.) I'll take the rest of my response offline. =P