It's funny the things you miss

There was never a clean scrap of paper in the house. Not the front of paper. Not the back of paper. Not the inside of envelopes. Often, not even the toilet paper.

To my brother, the world was a canvas. And if he couldn't find a canvas, well...your journal will do.

That was life growing up with an artist. They must create. He was a doodling furnace that consumed every writeable surface in the house. Have you ever seen an alien battle depicted on an empty paper towel holder?

I have.

A few of them.

Space travel is a bloody business.

I've always admired his talent. More than admired. Coveted. I do well to print my name legibly. He could recreate the minute details of a Boeing 747 within six minutes or less of it flying overhead. Being in the same house with talent like that makes everything you do look like...well...child's play.

Because it is.

Mostly, however, what drove me crazy was never having a piece of paper to myself. As a writer pre-personal computer age, this was like dropping a swimmer in the desert and telling them to practice their laps.

"Mom! He drew all over my notebook again!"

My parents should have bought paper by the bale and ink by the bucket.

Even my homework got in on the action. My assignments were often spruced up with bold but odd doodles in the corner, on the cover, on the back, inside the notepad. You name it. Those doodles were sneaky creatures. They could wiggle into nearly any open space.

Frequently, my teachers would inform me doodling was not allowed in math. Or science. On my English papers or along the spine of my social studies homework. When they'd ask me to explain it, I'd just shrug.

"I left my notebook unguarded last night and Brendon found it."

As a kid, you have certain fantasies of what life will be like as an adult. You dream of all the dessert you'll eat. The late nights where you skip sleep. The freedom to do anything. And the endless supply of paper and pencils always available.

Okay, that last one might have only been me.

My brother and I haven't shared bathrooms, dinner tables, backseats, or notepads for nearly 20 years now. Recently, however, I was combing through my supply of clean notebooks and found a remnant left over. There, as if conjured straight out of a childhood memory, was a notebook with scribbles all over it.

I'm guessing he left it at my place at some point during the last two decades. I honestly hope I haven't kept notebooks around from high school. If so, it's time to sit myself down and have a chat about hoarding.

The funny or odd or ironic thing about that notepad is that I'm never going to let it go. I'll trash all the empty ones first. And, even then, good luck getting this sucker out of my hands. I have an intense grip.

After all those years of wanting to dump his head in a vat of black ink and watch bubbles float to the top, I missed those doodles. Really missed them.

Even though I was often frustrated beyond a healthy blood pressure level, I still had to admire the talent. And the journey. On every page there was a character waiting. Or a scene. Or an impression that left me realizing some creative minds think in more dimensions than the rest of us.

Now, as an adult, I want the doodles back. But my brother has far better things to do.

Next month, he and his wife will welcome their first son. He's already an active critter, my sister-in-law tells me. I'm not a bit surprised. If I had to guess, he's running out of wall space in there to draw on.

Or maybe he'll be more like me. The boring, reading one.

But I rather hope not. I hope, like his father, he is a fount of endless ideas. I hope he dreams of alien battles and draws them everywhere. I hope his curiosity gets him into trouble. And adventure. I hope he recreates creatures from his head into the corner of every piece of Botany homework his older sisters turn-in. And I hope they have to explain it to their teachers. Over and over again.

I hope he's alive with imagination. And I hope, when I leave my notepad lying around, he draws all over it.