All of his bags are packed. In a few hours my little brother leaves Utah on a plane headed to his mission in Florianopolis, Brazil. I know it will be a great experience for him, but part of me is so sad. I haven't seen him since Christmas and now it will be two more years before I have the chance. He spoke in church on the 11th and my little sister Marissa reported that even though I wasn't there, he thanks me for being so smart and always knowing how to get him out of trouble. Uh, gee, thanks! (Marissa has a blog now, but she says until Mike finishes his thesis she won't get much internet time to post)
Eli is almost 7 years younger than me, and what he remembers about me from his youth surprised me. I used to read to him every night, but I thought it was long forgotten until he asked me what the title of one of the books that we read was (The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynn Reid Banks). He also remembers me leaving trails of pennies through our house on Saint Patrick's Day with a treat at the end of the trail from the leprechauns.
Even though I was quite a bit older than him, we always had a lot of fun together. Of course he went through the teenage years, when he didn't want to hang out with me, but he's reached an age where it's cool to hang out with his older siblings again, and I guess that's partially why it's especially sad to see him go.
Eli's always been a super-confident cool kid. He was chubby during his middle school era and one day his soccer coach overheard some of the kids calling him Twinkie. He told the kids to cut it out, but Eli interrupted and said, "Coach, it's cause I've got a creamy filling in the middle." And he flashed his bright smile. He honestly was proud of that nickname. He had it embroidered on one of his football hoodies in high school. His band, Festively Plump (later known as Dishwasher Safe and then Adrenaline) had a song that basically went, "Eli's not fat, he's festively plump, festively plump, festively plump." He just thought it was hilarious. Later he thinned out, grew taller, and became the popular kid who was the starting center of his football team, which took state. My mom overheard some awkward girls talking about who their dream date would be to one of the dances and they all came to an agreement that it would be Eli because, "He's so nice to everyone."
He's the kind of guy that I have always been proud to be related to and that it why I know he will do well over the next two years.