I’m excited! My brother and sister-in-law are coming for a long overdue visit. I almost don’t mind cleaning the house. I’m that excited.
As a way of sharing my happiness with all my Internet friends, I thought I’d tell you one of my favorite stories about my brother and I. I know you’re thinking I’m going to make your hair stand on end with a wild tale of childhood pyrotechnics or pet baptism.
Sorry. My brother and I were good kids. And he was a good teenager. We never got in fights or played pranks on each other. So this story involves an activity that all well-behaved, nerdy kids are familiar with. Studying.
My brother, Case, and I had the same major and went to the same college. We ended up in class together on more than one occasion, which caused embarrassment for me. You see, professors tended to dote on Case, delightedly calling upon him to read Hamlet’s soliloquies, offer his exalted opinion on Beowulf, or share his most recent ground-breaking thesis with the class.
When a professor would discover that I was Case Tompkins’ little sister, they’d turn to me with an “Are you brilliant, too?” question in their eyes. The best I could offer was a “No, but I do my homework” grimace in return.
Toward the end of our undergrad years, Case and I landed in "History of the English Language"—arguably the hardest course in the English major. We’re talking impeccable grammar requirements, all the name and date memorization of a history class, and some scientific facts thrown in just to torment creative types like me.
The professor was amazing. We loved him. But nobody would call his tests easy. So one afternoon, while struggling to memorize yet another block of information, Case and I came up with a different study method.
We hauled out a couple of old t-shirts and some permanent markers. We then wrote our notes all over the shirts. We had a great time, and by the end of our project, we really felt we knew the material.
That didn’t stop us from wearing our shirts on test day. We walked into class and sat down. No, not side-by-side. This isn’t a Dick and Jane book. Pretty soon our classmates leaned in to get a better look and started laughing.
Case causally threw out, “Five bucks and you can sit next to me.” I piped up. “Ten bucks to sit next to me cuz you can actually read my handwriting.” The class was still tittering when the professor walked in. After a moment, he too squinted at our textbook shirts and then let out a whoop of laughter.
We did have to remove our shirts before taking the test (yes, you gutter minds, we had shirts on underneath), but we both got A’s. When the course was over, we bequeathed our “study notes” to the professor. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loaned them out to overwhelmed students who took the class after us.
Yes, folks, that’s what geeks do for fun. I doubt Case and I will need to cram for any tests while he and Eden are visiting, but you never know. Maybe I’ll whip out a ratty t-shirt and see if he’ll brainstorm plot ideas with me.
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