The Brotherhood of Blood

SOMETHING ELSE THAT HASN’T SURVIVED into adulthood is the kid-concept of “blood brotherhood.”

It works like this: Two boys (did girls ever do this?) make an incision or a pinprick on their thumbs, then rub the wounds together. “Now we are blood brothers,” they will intone (if they intone anything at all, which they also may not). It’s an expression of intimate friendship; a ritual of bonding with what’s-today-called one’s BFF. And not to be entered into lightly.

I don’t know how old is this gesture is, or even if, in this hazardous fluids-aware world of ours, it is still practiced. But when I was small, it meant that you and your blood brother would always have each other’s back — and always be friends, no matter what happened.

As for me, I count two people as blood brothers: the first I gained when I was a pre-adolescent, the last when I was 15 and had fallen off my bicycle in so spectacular a manner (I was pedaling with no hands at top speed) that I required a trip to the ER. I still have the scars from the latter, and before they were bandaged my friend Ralfh shallowly slit his thumb with his pocket knife and said, “Let’s become blood brothers.”

So we did. I hope he still has the same fond memory I do.

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