Family love: Sam

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my (immediate) family. This is the final installment. You can read the other posts here. All wedding photographs courtesy of the incomparable Meredith Perdue.

Sam, Sammy, Samantha, Lil Bro Peep

When Samuel Chase was born, it was, collectively, the best thing that had ever happened to us three girls. He was our living doll, our breathing plaything. And he was a BOY! We had never seen one of those before. He was also the most adorable baby ever created. I wish I had photos of him as an infant to share here; these pictures would make you weep, overwhelmed by the unbelievable CUTENESS of this child. It was unreal.

We fed him, stuffed him in doll strollers, changed his diapers, bathed him, spoke for him. Mom likes to say that he didn’t learn to walk until he was three because Kelsey carried him everywhere and that he’s still a reticent talker because he’s used to the family women, his four mothers, speaking for him. Poor boy.

329/366By the misfortune of his birth order, he was forced to play with us girls. He was always a good sport, though, and tolerated our dressing him up in Grace‘s endless treasure trunk of costumes. One memorable evening, when he was about four, we put him in Grace’s beloved Queen of Hearts satin dress, outfitted him with a blonde Dolly Parton-esque wig, and called him Samantha. This proved to be immensely entertaining… until Father came home and saw his only son prancing around in a dress. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON??” he bellowed at us when he walked in the door. We all burst into tears–Sam most of all, because he didn’t understand what he’d done wrong. Again, the poor child. How he suffered for us.

He got shafted a lot, as the youngest. The family travel rule was that whoever was lowest to the ground had to check under all the beds before we left a hotel. This thankless task consistently fell to Sam, although he has now surpassed all of us women in height. (Grace would now be the Lowest to the Ground.) He’s always been Mom’s favorite, which was natural and unsurprising to us all, but he was never given any special privileges. He was an occasionally dramatic child (often having “the worst day of [his] life,” multiple times, before the age of eight), but probably for good reason. Dad was always intent on cultivating manliness in him, and soon Sam took over all of the yardwork and mechanical maintenance tasks that we girls once had to perform. He was expected to be good, strong, and capable. Luckily for all of us, Sam is all of those things.

Over the past few years, however, Sam has developed a wickedly good sense of humor, a softened blend of my father’s cutting sarcasm and Sam’s own gentle wittiness. I think it surprised us, to learn that Sam was funny. He spoke so rarely that we often had no idea what was going on in there. He is delightful company at any moment. And he will almost always make you laugh.

the ones that got away: maySam is known as having the best heart in our family. We tease Mom about saying this so often, but she only does because it is true: The man has a tender heart. I don’t know how it happened. By all accounts, he should have wound up bitter and confused at life, at his unfortunate birth order. Instead, he is deeply compassionate to all people, understanding beyond his years, and emotionally profound.

The story Mom tells about Sam’s exposure to Jesus always gets me, even though I’ve heard it a hundred times. Sam was about three and Mom told him the basic outline of the Gospel: God sent Jesus to earth for you; he loved lots of people while he was here; he extends love to us even though we don’t deserve it; and then he died on a cross for us. At this last point–the crucifixion–little Sam burst into tears. Mom was surprised. “Sam,” she asked, concerned, “why are you crying?” “Mommy,” Sam said, “why would Jesus die for ME?” It is a simple question, and the truest expression of humility that I know.

I can’t even tell you about Sam’s speech to me and Guion at our rehearsal dinner without wanting to break down and sob. I didn’t cry during our entire wedding weekend–except for Sam’s toast. It was simple and pure and unrehearsed. At its most basic element, Sam just wanted to make sure that I knew how much he loved me. I certainly did, and I always have. He is a good brother–the best, in fact–and my life would be profoundly empty without him. I need to do a better job of telling him that, in the manner that he told me: Simple, pure, unrehearsed.

Family love: Win

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my immediate family. This is the sixth installment. All high-quality photographs from a wedding are courtesy of the brilliant Meredith Perdue.

Windley, Brother

If I was nervous about meeting Windy, I was even more nervous about meeting Win. He was, after all, Guion’s only sibling. What if he didn’t like me? What if he objected to my dating his only and older brother? What if we fundamentally didn’t get along?

As I was pleased to discover, it is impossible not to get along with Win. He’s probably the most likable person you’ll ever meet.

We love him!

Win is gentle and understanding. He listens far more than he speaks, which is such a commendable quality (and one that I could do well to emulate). You would think that more reserved, withdrawn people could have a harder time amassing a large circle of friends, but nothing could be further from the truth with Win. His quiet nature is magnetic to so many people. When we travel into Win’s territory — Raleigh — we are mobbed by his countless friends, his warm community that can’t get enough of his company. And for good reason.

The reader

I have always been fascinated by the interaction between Guion and Win. In many ways, they are very different. Guion talks almost constantly; getting a full sentence out of Win is a great victory. Guion possesses his parents’ endless social energy; Win seems content to be alone or to be with just a few people. Guion could get dressed in the dark without a thought to what he was wearing; Win has a well-cultivated wardrobe.

And yet. Despite these marked personality differences, their interests are almost identical. Both brothers are musicians, award-winning brewmasters, creative writers, former YoungLife leaders, and soccer players. Hobby-wise, you could not find two more similar people.

Love my bro-in-law

All of these brotherly overlaps and similarities aside, what’s been important in my relationship with Win are the things that the two of us have in common that I do not necessarily share with Guion. For example, Win and I share a love of literature and classic novels (something I have long tried to instill in Guion, but to no avail). We can talk with great enthusiasm about our love for dogs. (Our only point of contention is the family’s springer spaniel, Aoive, whom I love, but the Brothers Pratt are not so sure about.) He teaches me a lot about theology and principles of loving one’s community. As many ways as he resembles my husband in his interests, I love having conversations with Win that lie outside of those shared interests.

I am excited about the opportunity to have more of those conversations in person, because as of last week, Win is an official resident of Charlottesville. He will be participating in the Christ Church fellows program and we could not be more thrilled about having him in town.

Win welcomed me into the family with genuine warmth and a degree of trust that I did not deserve. He is willing to sacrifice his time and energy for the people who matter to him (as he so heroically displayed this past week when he drove to Lynchburg to retrieve my purse). He has always made me feel like a valued sister, and so I continually hope that he knows how much he means to me as a valued brother.

I light up when he introduces me to his friends as his “sister” — not “sister-in-law” — because that’s exactly how he treats me. No divisions. No qualifications. Just family.