An Intimate Alliance

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Through retrospection, I have some to understand how fortunate it was that my sister should have taken such an interest in me.

When Ali was 4 or so, after just realizing her literacy skills, she read to me at any open moment. This compelled within me great intellectual ferocity; according to family lore, in quick time, I demanded I be taught how to read, that I might share in Ali’s godly power.

In her elementary school years, Ali decided she was to become a teacher. To sustain this ambition, she figured practice was a necessary exercise. With some vividity, I can remember our mom driving us to the “Teacher Store,” located an earnest 30 minutes from our home, where Ali would pick out certain items like dry-erase markers and mad-minute math cards (in vouge then) to purchase. She used these accessories to decorate her bedroom.

We played school every day, and I was her student. For her, it was a serious, preparatory endeavor; for me—I just enjoyed spending time with my sister.

When I was in kindergarten she taught me the processes of long division and multiplication (truly riveting concepts to the tender mind). She explained to me what a subject and a predicate were, and she administered official quizzes to ensure I could identify them properly. Sometimes she had a friend over who would serve as her “aide” (I can recall Miss Supler teaching me proportions).

Studies suggest that no period of life, developmentally speaking, is more crucial than the earliest years; that no period is as indicative of one’s future calculus. If that is true, my sister’s diligent efforts, which propelled me to learn material far more advanced than what was typical for my age, should be described as most invaluable. What is more, by the academic nourishment she provided me at so impressionable an age, she inspired within me a sincere fondness for intellectual stimulation and discovery—a passion that remains with me.

When Ali was in middle school, I rebelled and staged a coup d’état, of sorts. We signed “legal papers” establishing that I would remain pupil only if I was allowed to be the teacher once a week. So I began to teach her. I discusses the topics I was learning in school. As I delivered my lesson, covering topics Ali had learned in prior years, she would correct me occasionally.

There is a certain thrill which comes from teaching others. During the summers, I like to tutor kids, and during the school year, I assist peers with their assigned essays. Something about the interpersonal transfer of knowledge is very exciting. Two minds in some strange union, remarkably merged by an abstract notion. It is an intimate alliance.

Ali is at college now. When she comes home, she tells me what she’s discovered in her classes. Soon I, too, will be in college. And when I see her now and then, I will tell her what wondrous things I have learned.

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