by Paige Marriott

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    When did that happen? All of a sudden my younger brother was a whole lot taller—and I don’t mean physically.

    I have a brother named Matt.

    I always thought of my younger brother as competition. When he was a baby, I played games in which points were earned if I could make him cry. In all those years of punching, growing, and playing I never realized he’d get bigger than me. But Matt knew, and he savored the day when his physical attributes could overcome his tyrannical older sister.

    In time Matt did outgrow me, but in more ways than height and strength.

    Matt and I attended the same high school, and with only a year’s difference between us, we were often placed in the same classes. We pretended not to know each other. Our public arguing brought out our stubborn personalities for all to see, and teachers who had a class with both Marriotts seemed to contemplate early retirement.

    So when I announced I intended to run for student-body president, Matt flew into an understandable rage. “You’re going to humiliate me!” he yelled, rolling his eyes.

    In the weeks that followed, I had campaign parties, made posters, and handed out candy with my name boldly printed on it. All too soon, the day for the speeches arrived. I left my class early and placed a flyer on each chair in the auditorium. I was alone when my brother burst in with a gang of his friends.

    “Oh, no,” I thought. “Not now.”

    But Matt had other ideas. He walked up to me, patted me on the back, and said, “You can do it, Paige.” I felt like a prize fighter. But for once I wasn’t going to fight my brother. He was in my corner helping.

    Later, when the speeches were completed, and the flyers and crumpled candy wrappers remained where students once sat, I started to clean up the mess. After my speech I was nervous and desperately needed some reassurance. Then Matt reappeared. He grabbed a handful of garbage and stuffed it into the sack I was holding.

    “Paige.” He placed his arm around my shoulders. “It’s okay if you embarrassed the family name. I’ll still vote for you.” It was his way of saying I did all right.

    It was an act of kindness I will never forget. As we stood in the auditorium that afternoon, I realized my brother had outgrown me in many ways, and one of them was love.

    Photography by Matt Reier