There were six of us, plus Marshall, who wasn’t one of the Russell siblings but might as well have been. He practically lived with us. Every morning he walked from his house down the road to ours, appearing just after breakfast when our mother would shoo us all outside to play until lunchtime. From the back door, we would scatter like a flock of birds, and Marshall would have his pick of what wild adventure and with which wild Russell to have it.

Adam, left, and Marshall, Adam’s partner in mayhem and an example of how “siblinghood transcends blood.” Photo courtesy of Amanda Russell

He could go with Hannah and me into the woods to explore old foundations and walk atop stone walls, maybe shimmy up sapling trees to bend their leafy crowns down to the neighbor’s hungry cows pastured on our land. Or he could hang out with my two older sisters in the barn, where they put on talent shows strumming the broom and lip-syncing to Joan Baez. Finally, there were my two brothers left for Marshall to choose from: the one who just liked to sit in the shade of the old elms dreaming, or my other brother, Adam. Oh yes, Adam was Marshall’s favorite Russell to play with.

Adam got into trouble, though – a lot – and with Marshall, the trouble doubled. There was the time they went swimming in the frog pond, something forbidden what with the bloodsuckers and snapping turtles lurking in the still, brown water. When the two boys emerged from the lily pads, they were covered with bloodsuckers – little, black leeches – all over their naked bodies.

And there was the time they started the woods on fire. It was no small brush fire. Flames climbed to the tops of the trees. Fire departments from three villages arrived. To our relief, the Bristol fire chief solemnly told them he was putting them on probation rather than sending them to the state prison in Thomaston for life. Adam and Marshall played on the same Little League team together, built woods camps together and survived concussions suffered from falls off their bicycles racing each other around.

Years later, when Claudia, Adam’s life partner, passed away, Marshall forwent his trip to China to take care of Adam. That winter, they had dinner together almost every night. These days, Marshall helps Adam with the small engines, and Adam helps Marshall with the big machinery. Adam makes his venison roast for Super Bowl Sundays, and Marshall buys the beer. Some days they just sit in the barn together with the doors wide open. Most days, they check up on each other. They are more than friends; they are brothers. They always were. After all, siblinghood transcends blood every time, and Marshall remains the seventh Russell sibling in our family.

 

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