I am the eldest sibling in my family. My brother, Jeff, is three years younger than I am, and my sister, Jennifer, seven years younger. We all grew up together in cramped quarters in a very small house. Invariably, we all got under each other’s skin quite frequently. Typical sibling squabbles. Money was tight, so my parents would pile us into the green and white Ford station wagon and head out for a family ride into the country for entertainment. Dad and Mom sat up front. Jennifer sat in the middle of the backseat between Jeff and me.

Jamie Cypher, center, with her brother, Jeff, left, and her sister, Jennifer, during a peaceful moment in between “I tag it” competitions. Photo courtesy of Jamie Cypher

Long before CD players, video games, tablets and cellphones, we passed the time on long rides with a game of “I tag it.” This referred to tagging any and all horses that we saw. If you were the first to see a horse and shout “I tag it!” the horse was yours. Forever. We were all horse-crazy kids, no doubt from watching “My Friend Flicka,” “Fury,” “Bonanza” and other Westerns.

On one particular ride, Jeff rapidly began tagging one horse after another. Jennifer objected, saying she couldn’t even see any. I sat her on my lap so she could look out the window. While she searched in vain for even one horse of her own, Jeff continued to repeatedly proclaim, “I tag it!” She was upset and cried, saying, “He’s tagging all of them, and I don’t even have one.”

I glanced over as he again exclaimed “I tag it!” only to realize that there was no horse, and he had been making it up all along. I whispered in her ear, “He’s making it up. Let’s do the same thing.” She and I began to tag every non-existent horse we never saw, and the war began. The volume of tagging escalated until both parents had had enough. Dad pulled the car over, and Jennifer was hoisted into the front seat, but not before turning around and sticking her tongue out at Jeff for good measure.

As we grew up and each chose our own road to follow in life, the getting under each other’s skin matured into good-natured kidding when we all got together as adults. Growing older has rerouted each separate road back into one highway of life paved with shared experiences, values and beliefs. Loyalty and support for each other are unquestionable. During this last year of the pandemic, I have reflected how lucky we are to revisit those days of family road trips and the game of “I tag it.”

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