When it comes to transitions, things can get pretty stressful. Transition to a new job, transition to a marriage or family, or transition to a new place makes people nervous, worried, and fearful. But if there's a constant presence around, that can make a transition a lot easier.
When I went up to spend high school in Saginaw, Michigan, it was a huge transition for me. It's not terribly common for a high school student to board, and unlike my other siblings, I was probably not as prepared mentally for it as they were.
I made friends pretty quickly and got involved in extracurriculars, but there was still moments of homesickness, stress, nerves, worries, and fears. But I had a secret weapon; a solution to the problems that come with transition:
My older brother, Matt.
I was a freshman when he was a senior, and when it came to being a senior, he was a Senior. He did everything: football, choir, show choir, theater, and just plain hanging out with a tight group of friends. It was cool to see him in his element.
But he was very supportive of me, too. He listened to me as I complained about transition stuff and helped me out when I needed advice or assistance on homework.
The biggest thing he did, though, was take me to the comic book shop on Wednesdays.
We both were becoming big comic fans around the same time, and we shared a love of DC Comics. In the year 2000, DC Comics were at a creative height. The 1990s had been good to DC, emerging from the giant Crisis on Infinite Earths arc from the 1980s to produce some amazing comics. The Batman comics themselves were wonderful to read, from the original Detective Comics to Nightwing and Robin, my personal favorites. And there was the best comic series around, Young Justice, which had an amazing script and the best inkwork of any comic. (I should know - I own a Todd Nauck original!)
A man at church, Tom, lent us a gigantic amount of his trade paperbacks in those months, and we gobbled them up. Most of them, of course, were Batman comics, but there were a few JLA and crossover trades sprinkled around here and there.
Our peak comic purchasing came during a major event in the Batman universe called Batman: No Man's Land, which lasted for an entire year, finally ending in March of 2000. Every month a few new comics would be released that were related to that event, and we got almost all of them. A novelization came out a year or two later, and I bought that, too! We really got into how everything was shaping up in the Batverse, but I think both of us were relieved when the story was finally done and we could turn to some other plotline for a while.
It just so happened that in Saginaw there was a comic book shop named Shorty's Three Cs (Comics, Cards, and Collectibles) just a few blocks down the road from MLS. It was across from Tony's restaurant where Bay Road met up with State Street and run by a very nice guy who greeted us whenever we showed up.
We ended up making it a habit to meet up on Wednesdays around 4 to walk down to the comics shop together. (Wednesdays are the release day for new comics, if you're not in the know.) Even if we couldn't fit in any other time to get together, we could rely on those hourlong walks to chat and catch up on what the other person was doing. Most of the time, we talked about the comics.
When we were kids, there was a lot of sibling arguing, posturing, and fighting, as siblings are wont to do. Matt and I were no different. When Matt went up to MLS without the rest of us, that dynamic changed to one where I missed having him around. It wasn't much fun being the older sibling in the house.
Being reunited at MLS for one year made our sibling relationship entirely different. Instead of being brother and sister, we actually got to be friends. We joked around and had serious discussions and shared important details with each other.
I know that Matt looks back on those Wednesday afternoons with fondness, as I do. It wasn't just about comics for either of us. It was a chance to grow up and transition with an older brother helping me out. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better, even though I've known him my whole life and he's known me for most of his. And it was a great way to solidify a great relationship that lasts to this day.
I visited Matt back in September in his new home near San Francisco. We went out to eat, viewed some touristy attractions, and watched a bunch of YouTube videos.
But do you know what we ended up doing, almost out of habit?
We checked out the comic shop.