I watched my baby brother get married this weekend. Baby isn’t the adjective that would come to mind if you met Max. He’s 6’2 and could probably pummel you. But being 4 years younger than me will always make him my baby brother in my eyes.
While I usually never stray from the wedding registry when buying a gift (there is a reason people register) I knew that I wanted his wedding present to be something beyond a toaster. I wanted to give him something that he would remember. Something that we could still talk about when we were old and grey. And I got my chance in Barcelona.
The first day we landed in Barcelona, my family was exhausted and wanted to nap. Knowing this was a jam-packed 3 days with tons to see, I obviously wasn’t going to rest. And I knew that if there was one thing Max wanted to do in this city, it was see the FC Barcelona stadium (because there aren’t enough words in the English language to adequately explain what a sports enthusiast he is). “Come on” I told him "We're going". So we hopped on the Metro and headed towards Camp Nou. When we got there, I knew he was on cloud 9. They had a 3 story Megastore full of FC Barcelona merch. We walked outside the stadium and the store, bought some shirts, and we soaked it all in.
We saw that some people were in line to tour the inside of the stadium and so I asked him if he wanted to go in. He hesitated. Tickets seemed overpriced and he had just dropped almost all his money on a new Messi jersey, so we almost left. He was still happy he saw what he did and frankly, I didn’t really care much to go inside if there wasn’t a game happening. But then I paused for a moment and began to realize something. I was at the home of arguably the most prestigious athletic organization and I was with the biggest sports fan that I know. It would be incredibly stupid to not seize this opportunity. “Let's do it” I told him. "Happy Wedding present." He smiled and we got in line.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Max that energized and happy on any other vacation. He took countless pictures. He kept saying "God, this is so freaking cool." We toured the locker rooms, we sang the FC Barcelona anthem, and we walked along the field.
On the way out of the stadium, we walked through the stands when an employee asked if we wanted to stop and have a drink on the club level terrace. “No thanks” Max told her, but I grabbed his shirt. “Why would we turn down the chance to say we've sat and had drinks inside Camp Nou” He smiled and we walked over to our table to order some drinks. We talked for awhile about how cool this place was. How fun it would be to come back during a time we could actually watch a game. And then he said something that I’ll never forget. “It’s so surreal to be here and I want to soak it all up, because I know I’ll probably never get to come back again.”
I asked him why he thought that and he began to name reasons about money or why would he ever be in Barcelona again and some other excuses that I stopped listening to. I looked him in the eyes and with my bossy big sister voice made him this promise. “We are going to come back here together again someday and we’re going to see a game. We’re going to scream and cheer with the crazy Spaniards and it’s going to be awesome.” He chuckled and agreed with me (probably just to shut me up). We finished our drinks and wrapped up touring the stadium together. It was one of those days and memories with my brother that I anticipate we’ll still talk about for years to come. "Mission accomplished” I thought to myself.
Max grew up being a pretty go with the flow kid. He had to be, because I was the domineering one . And we tend to drift back into these stereotypes when we’re in a family setting. I’m the typical bossy big sister that makes the plans and Max nods his head and says “sure.” So it was no different when we first went to Europe together 3 years ago in Rome. I drug us down Via Del Corso to sightsee, or down Via Condotti to shop. I insisted on touring the Vatican and doing everything else that we could squeeze into 3 short days. He followed along, took pictures for me, and continued to reply with his usual “OK”. But when we got home, it became a running joke when Max pointed out (and held over our head) that we didn’t do the one thing he wanted to do, which was tour the inside of the Colosseum. In the moment it seemed like a waste of time. The line was hours long and I’d seen pictures of the inside online. You could kind of see the inside from the outside anyway (that was my rationale at least). So it seemed that we would never live down that the one time we were in Rome we didn’t see the Colosseum. “When in Rome? Nah we’ll pass.” I did feel slightly guilty that we accomplished basically everything I wanted to see and do, but somehow hadn't managed to do the one thing Max cared to do. "Maybe we'll be back again someday?" I told him hopefully (to which he responded with another "Sure.")
Well who knew that 3 years later we’d be back in Rome (and don’t worry, this time the very first thing we did was tour the inside of the Colosseum). As we stood on the inside, soaking it all in (this time only a few days after we had been sipping drinks at FC Barcelona stadium) I turned to Max. “Hey, remember that time you said you’d never be back in Rome again or see the inside of the Colosseum?” He rolled his eyes at me for being an annoying know-it-all and we laughed for a minute. “I can’t wait to say the same thing to you about FC Barcelona someday" I told him. He smiled and agreed (but I’d like to think the look in his eyes this time was more believing).
I’d be lying if I said I always believed Max would see the inside of the Colosseum after he didn’t our first trip. He’s more of a homebody and it’s not like we frequent Rome. But if I’ve learned anything this year, it's that anything really is possible. And there’s nothing I love more than finding that quiet voice inside someone that says "I’d like to, but I can’t” and shake them awake to say YES. You really, really can. Because you always have a choice to make this life what you want it to be.
So to my baby brother as you start this new adventure, I hope you’ll speak up and name all the things that you want in this life. I hope that whenever you think that something could never happen, you’ll remember that day in Rome when we stood inside the Colosseum. I hope you remember that if you try and fail, that doesn’t mean you won’t succeed later. That when something doesn’t work out in your favor, there’s still the hope of goodness in store down the road. And I hope you’re ready to watch that game at Camp Nou in Barcelona together someday (and that you’ll bring your smoking hot wife that I now get to call my sister). Because it's going to happen. And when it does, it's going to be epic.