One Saturday morning Brady picked one of his favorite books from his shelf and wrote inside the cover: THIS BOOK BELONGS TO ME. Brady wasn’t sure why he had done it, but now that he had done it, he wanted to write those same words in every book that he owned. So he did.
At noon his older sister Kate walked into his room to tell him lunch was ready. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, closing the book he had been writing in.
“You are, too, doing something,” insisted Kate. “I saw you. You were writing something in one of your books. Let me see what it is.”
“Yes!” Kate tried to grab the book from Brady. They tugged at the book between them. Kate won. She always did.
“This book belongs to me,” she read aloud.
Out loud it sounded dumb to Brady.
“Brady,” said his sister, “how is anybody going to know who ‘me’ is? You need to write your name.”
To Brady’s surprise, Kate’s question and suggestion made sense. “Oh,” he said. “Thanks.”
His sister said, “You’re welcome.”
After lunch Brady spent most of the afternoon adding his name to the writing in the front of his books. Each one looked like this: THIS BOOK BELONGS TO ME, BRADY.
By the time he was done, he felt so proud to see his name in all of his books that he began writing it on everything—his tennis shoes, his ruler, his shoe box with his shell collection in it, his map of the world, and his baseball mitt.
Then Brady wondered if his mother would be angry and yell at him for writing his name on everything. He decided he didn’t want to find out. So he taped a big sign to his door that read: THIS ROOM BELONGS TO ME, BRADY. KEEP OUT!
It wasn’t long before his sister knocked on his door and asked, “What’s going on, Brady? What’s the sign for?” And before Brady could say “keep out,” his sister had opened the door, walked into his room, and sat down on his bed. “May I borrow your bike, Brady? Just for a few hours?” she asked.
A strange new feeling came over Brady. He shouted, “No! It’s my bike. It belongs to me, Brady. And you keep away from it!”
“OK, OK,” said his sister, and she left.
That night, at the movies, Brady’s mother reached over and took some popcorn from Brady’s popcorn box.
“Mom,” whispered Brady.
“Be quiet,” whispered Brady’s father. “Watch the movie.”
But as soon as Brady looked back at the screen, his mother reached over and took some more popcorn. She did it again, and again!
Brady stood and said loudly, “Please, Mom, stop taking my popcorn!”
And she stopped. Brady thought it was because everyone in the theater had turned and glared at her.
For several days afterward, whenever someone wanted to “help” Brady finish his ice cream or whenever someone wanted to “borrow” a stick of his gum, Brady puffed up big and said: “No, it belongs to me, Brady.” He had never felt so powerful.
Now Kate never walked uninvited into his room. And there was never any confusion about what belonged to Brady. At first Brady was glad to know that he could make people leave him alone. But he noticed something else had changed too. When Brady wanted to use his sister’s paint set or to stick his finger into the cookie batter to taste it, or to “borrow” his father’s shaving lotion, he was always told “No! It belongs to me.” And Brady had to do without.
Brady began to feel uncomfortable and left out. When he thought about it, he couldn’t remember exactly why he had started naming and claiming things in the first place. He decided that he liked the way things were before.
Brady knew he couldn’t take his name off all of his possessions, but he could do one thing. He could take down the KEEP OUT sign from his door and put another one up instead.
So he did.
This one read: WELCOME, FRIENDS!