Being different

We live in a world today that encourages and embraces sameness. Those that are different are scorned, ridiculed or worse. However, try as we might, we’ll never really become the same. No two of us are the same–we’re all unique.

Our differences start from the point of conception. While the development process is very similar for each of us, we all have distinct differences–some seen, some not. When it comes to be different, trust me, I know what I’m talking about. My parent’s first indication that I was different was the dime-sized mole/birthmark on my chin. My parents knew BEFORE Mike was born that he was different–being nearly 3 months early and far worse labor.

These early physical and developmental differences in the two us greatly affected our lives early. Mike, was always frail and never could gain weight (I envy him this). So, he often excluded himself from games because he was too small or thought he get hurt. I, on the other hand, faced the looks, the questions and outright meanness of my fellow classmates. Mike and I shared the same parents and the same heredity and yet were complete opposites in many ways.


Because of his physical limits, Mike spent his early childhood mostly indoors. Our ancestors were Scottish and thus, we are all fair skinned and red-headed. Possibly because he was 10 weeks premature, Mike was even more fair-skinned than the rest of the family. So, long hours out in the sun affected him much more than I. I was always outside riding my bike, playing soccer, playing with my dog(s), working in the garden and/or flower beds, camping etc. Mike spent a lot more time inside tinkering. He was ALWAYS taking things apart which I never understood. He had a natural curiosity and always wanted to know how things worked. You would NEVER find me disassembling my “toys”–but then again, my “toys” were the dogs.

Scott Christmas vs Mike Christmas

For Christmas, a lot of times we would get something mechanical or electronic–small video games, radios, cars, etc. Typically, Mike disassembled his toys within the first week of receiving them. I always kept mine in the original packaging as long as possible to avoid any incidental scratches or blemishes. One year my dad and uncle gave each of us the desks that they used as kids–I got my dad’s, Mike got my uncle’s. From the start, you could see the difference in the previous generation of Haines boys. Dad kept his old desk pristine, but Rick beat his to heck (like good old desks tend to get). It wasn’t long before both desks the trend of the previous generation. I always kept my desk covered to keep it nice–Mike “used” his.

While Mike worked tirelessly disassembling electronics, he would lay parts out on the desk and thumb tack them in place. He essentially “unpacked” all of the components and laid them out the way HE wanted. It always drove me nuts as a kid, but I know that it was just his way of learning.


While Mike and I were very different growing up, we also were alike in many other ways. As children, we both liked to keep to ourselves–unless it meant playing together. Our two favorite past-times were riding our bicycles and building things with our Legos or Lincoln Logs. We both considered it a point of pride that we had accumulated over 800 miles on our 20″ BMX bicycles. (Granted, most of that 800 miles was up and down the drive or in front of the house. Our parents didn’t let us stray too far)

As I said, Mike was the one that always wanted to take things apart–I was the one that wanted to put things together. So, we got along quite well playing with the Legos and Lincoln Logs. I was always the one building elaborate log houses and he built weird contraptions out of the Legos. Our sets were all pretty plain, but we managed to build cars and trucks with “power” steering, dualies, etc. (Yeah, I’ve always liked big trucks!)I remember one summer when we spent the mornings watching Voltron and the afternoons trying to build the cats.

You see, Voltron was a robot that came together from 5 different robotic “cats” to defend the universe. They made toys of the lions that would construct the Voltron robot, but our parents never bought them for us. So, we spent the afternoons trying to make our Legos work. We each had our favorite cat and would spend individual time working to perfect it. Then we started modifying them to have them connect. Voltron never quite came together like we wanted, so we ended up just pitting our cats against each other in epic battles. (Mostly just demolition derbies that required complete re-construction)

Two peas in a pod

As I look back and reminisce about those days, I remember my childhood fondly. I can describe our childhood with just one word–brotherhood. Don’t get me wrong, Mike found ways to grate on my last nerve and I did the same to him. However, through it all, from my earliest memory we were always together. If he couldn’t participate in something I loved to do, he was always my loudest cheerleader! He often told Dad, “I want to do that because Scott does it”. Dad even let him play soccer for 2 seasons. That is, until Mike decided that “playing defense” meant sitting in the grass and picking dandelions–my baby brother! Mike even joined Boy Scouts with me for a few years, but we’ll discuss that time later.

Looking back, I can also see how we were very much ADHD–mostly me. Our favorite toys were Legos, Lincoln Logs, bikes and we often combined all of them because we couldn’t pick just one. Then, my dad brought home our first computer (a TI-99/4A). I remember spending hours upon hours writing basic code with Mike. Of course, writing code meant that we would type out programs found in a book Dad had bought us. When he first brought that computer home, we had no way to “save” anything, so he bought us code books. We’d spend hours entering that code (We were 9 or 10) just to run a program that would change the color of the screen. If we wanted to do it again the next day, we had to re-enter all the code.

Finally dad added a “cassette” thing-a-ma-jig (I can only call it that because it was a cassette player hooked up to the computer via serial port) and we could “save” code. I don’t even remember how it worked, but it did–somewhat. We started “building” more complex programs and playing games that we’d programmed. For me though, it didn’t keep my attention very well. I decided that if I wanted to play a game, I’d go fire up the Atari and play one with state-of-the-art graphics. So, after the first few months, Mike became the computer geek and I drifted off to play with the dog(s). However, we were still in the same room–him at the computer and me on the floor with the dog. Those days we really didn’t do much apart.

What’s the point?

What’s the point you may ask? It looks like I’ve gone off on several rabbit trails and perhaps I have. The point I’m trying to make is that the differences drew us closer. Together, our differences made us stronger. Those differences played a key role in getting us through some difficult times.