A campground near Spokane, Washington USA


   The tent usually went up easier. Callie had done it a dozen times by herself, but something wasn’t right. Everything appeared to be okay, but the pole wouldn’t bend enough to go into the loop. She looked up from her twisted position on her knees and saw the problem. Five-year-old Zayne stood on the back half of the tent, smashing it to the ground. When he saw her he danced a little jig.

   “Zayne Alan Kyle O’Connor! What do you think you’re doing? Can’t you see I’m trying to get this blasted thing up before I die of old age?”

   Zayne just grinned, looking like a pixie with his ears sticking out from his long hair. He continued to dance as though he hadn’t heard a word.

   A stocky lad, he was already showing signs that he might pass up his siblings and be the ‘big brother’ even though he was the youngest. His ever-present ball cap, worn backward to keep his long hair out of his face, was slightly askew. His light brown eyes, the exact color of his hair, twinkled as he gazed innocently at his mother.

   She was not so easily mollified. “Peace out, Cub Scout. This isn’t your dance floor. Scoot!” she said, with a broad gesture that encompassed the entire campsite.

   Zayne was the ‘wee divil’ of the family. There was nothing so sacred that he wouldn’t climb on it, jump from it, hide it, or break it. Or, what he enjoyed the most: only pretend that he was going to do any one of the above, just to hear the owner of the prized object scream. Emotional torture was his forte.

   He also had selective deafness. He couldn’t hear the words ‘No’ and     ‘Don’t’ and ‘Now.’ What he did hear a lot of was, “Zayne, why can’t you ever mind…just once…please?!” or “Zayne, stop that! Now! Really. Right now!” and then, accompanied with a deep sigh, “Zayne, why don’t you ever listen?”

   On the other hand, he could, in a heartbeat, become the sweetest, most loving child you could ever hope to know. His hugs and kisses were valued by all who had ever been the object of his affection. He loved deeply and unconditionally. He was also the first to volunteer for any task, excited to learn a new skill.

   “Sorry, Mom,” said Taylor, her oldest. “I’ll take care of him. Hey, Zayners, let’s go down to the swings.”

   Zayne’s eyes lit up and he smiled broadly as he ran after his big brother, calling out, “Yayyy!”

   Eight-year-old Zach, who sat at the picnic table, shouted, “No fair! I never get to go anywhere!” He put his head down on his forearms and burst into tears.

   Taylor rolled his eyes, “Of course, you can go, Zachman. Come on, let’s see who can get there fastest.”

   Zach jumped up, wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand, and joined his two brothers. His short, sturdy legs didn’t slow him down a bit, but made him only a couple of inches taller than his baby brother. He was slim and muscular, thanks to a year of Taekwondo. In that year, he had worked hard for five and six days a week to earn his high blue belt. With his buzz cut hair and smaller features, it was hard to imagine that he and Zayne were even related.

   Zach had some temper issues, especially where his little brother was concerned. Zayne could easily set him off in a flash of anger that more often than not resulted in a shoving match. When he got into trouble for hurting his little brother, the anger quickly melted into a pity party over how unfair life was. It was usually only unfair when he wasn’t getting his own way.

   He also believed that it was his, and only his, duty to run the world around him. Since he didn’t have much power over anyone older than him, despite relentlessly trying, he focused his bossiness on Zayne. This usually resulted in the afore-mentioned temper issues. If Zayne would only listen….

   When experienced on his own, without other siblings to annoy him, he was every bit the snuggle-bug as his little brother. Brighter than any eight-year-old ought to be, he was constantly shocking those around him with his vocabulary and the way he viewed the world. He was often described as a 32-year-old in a little boy’s body.

   The three boys ran as fast as they could with Taylor just two steps behind. He took being the big brother very seriously. He had welcomed each new sibling with joy and, at twelve, was nearly idolized by his little brothers.

   Taylor took after the Murphy side of the family - small boned and very thin. His small frame allowed him to run like a cross between a gazelle and springbok and he was surprisingly muscular. His face was thin with a square chin below ‘rose petal lips’ (Grama’s description) and large hazel eyes. His head was topped with a Harry Potter haircut, complete with unmanageable tufts that stood up in back. Until recently, he had competed in gymnastics and now turned his interests to track. He could have easily left the boys in his dust, but preferred to let them think they were faster.

   Taylor had always been the easy one. From birth, he had been undemanding, charming and lovable. The few tantrums he had thrown were the sole fault of the adults in charge - dragging him around the mall for too long or forgetting to feed him on time.

   As he approached teen hood, he was growing into a fine young man with a gentle heart and caring nature. He pampered his mother and fussed over Grama and loved working on cars with his step-dad Nic.

His Uncle Kris had instilled in Taylor many of the lessons his grandfather Murphy had taught him about being a man. Taylor couldn’t hit a girl if he had to and wouldn’t allow anyone else to, either. Tormenting his sister was another thing altogether.

   Grama watched her grandsons run down the path, followed closely on their heels by Molly, her West Highland White Terrier, and stamped that picture into her memory to be called up again and again.

   Jordan, who was almost ten, appeared in the doorway of the motor home. “Yay, we get to stay alone with Grama tomorrow!” Then, seeing the pout on her mom’s face, “Oh yeah, I mean, we’ll miss you, Mom. Sorry you have to go.”

   She quickly changed the subject. “Grama, where do you put the beach towels?” Grama had asked her to tidy up in the motor home to keep her busy.

  “I’m coming,” Grama said as she started for the steps, smiling over her shoulder at Callie.

   Jordan had just gone through her summer growth spurt, going from slightly plump to tall and lithe with a dancer’s grace. She had full lips, chubby cheeks, hazel eyes, and her dark brown hair brushed her shoulders. She was pretty enough to break your heart.

   Jordan had been dancing since she was three. She had just returned from the National Dance Competitions at Disneyland where she had been invited to compete at the World Competition in Quebec next fall. Like Mom and Grama before her, she longed to make dance her career, and her passion gave them all hope she would actually realize her dream.

   Jordan was passionate about every aspect of her life: be it dance, school, or her loved ones. She had a very strong sense of right and wrong and would become livid if she thought someone was being treated unfairly. Unless, of course, it was her torturing her big brother.

One of her friends once told Grama that Jordan was the nicest person she had ever met. She was also the girliest girl ever. Barbie dolls, princesses, pretty clothes and horses filled her head. Jordan could talk a mile a minute and rarely took a breath.

   As soon as Grama was in the door, Jordan, talking so fast that it sounded like one word, asked, “Grama? If I ever get married, which I probably won’t ‘cause I still don’t have a boyfriend, and nobody will ever want to marry me, but anyway, if I do manage to get married, someday, can my husband and I use the motor home to go camping?”

   Now it was Grama’s turn to roll her eyes. “Good grief, child, you’re only nine! Why are you even thinking about getting married? And, yes, if this old thing is still able to move on down the road, many, many years from now when you do get married, you can use it.”

   “Grama! I’ll be TEN in just a couple of weeks! Ya know?”

Before Grama could respond to that lopsided reasoning, Papa and their son-in-law Nic returned from checking out the fishing stream.

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