Yet, for all their similarities, my dad and John did not live under the same roof for most of his upbringing. Nor did John and I grow up in the same home. With a ten year age difference and half a state between us, the memories that I do have of him and my brother Jamie are few and fuzzy, consisting of snippets of playing Legos in our first home or badminton on the front lawn in my preteen years.
I know that John had every reason to be resentful of my sister and I - living on a daily basis with the only father he ever knew. And I don't doubt that it must have been difficult for my brothers to share their dad with two new little sisters. To tell the truth, I am sure that over the years, we were often a thorn in their side. But, I never once felt that from John. He has never shown me anything but the love and care of a big brother to his little sister.
So, for John, I thought it only appropriate to make another cherry pie - only this time with cherries that my little family had picked at a friend's house and stashed away for just such a time as this. These cherries were destined for Big Brother's Bing Cherry Sugar Pie.
Several hours later, I rolled the chilled disk of dough into a thin sheet, transferred it to the pie tin, trimmed the excess dough with kitchen shears and carefully crimped the edges.
I then filled the unbaked pie shell with as many painstakingly pitted cherries as possible - attempting at first to arrange them neatly in concentric circles, but ultimately resigning myself to somewhat less orderly "mounds" of fruit.
I love the simplicity of this traditional "sugar pie" recipe. Just five simple ingredients - flour, granulated sugar, whole milk and vanilla extract (and of course, cherries) - transformed into something sweet and decadent.
Finally, I placed the pie into the oven to bake until the center had puffed and turned a light golden.
Although, technically, John is my half-brother, I prefer to think of him as just my brother. As I was driving home from some errand or other late last year, I caught a portion of a segment on NPR, in which the person being interviewed asserted that there are no half people and that the very term "half-sibling" ultimately detracts from the idea of family. That notion has resonated with me ever since.
Sure, John and I share a father and a handful of genes. But, there ultimately is so much more to who we are than that. I am so thankful for my two older brothers - the men who will carry on my father's name and legacy - and the love they have graciously shown me throughout my lifetime. The love of a big brother.
“A cherry pie is . . . ephemeral. From the moment it emerges from the oven it begins a steep decline: from too hot to edible to cold to stale to mouldy, and finally to a post-pie state where only history can tell you that it was once considered food. The pie is a parable of human life.” - Nick Harkaway