As long as we’ve got each other

My oldest brother got married this past weekend, and for the first time since our father’s passing my four older siblings and I were in the same place.  It’s always a bit strange seeing us together, because the time that passes in between such events is always significantly long enough for a few big changes to have happened for some (if not all) of us.

Hindsight convinces me time and time again that, had we been raised by different parents, after a certain point we might have never spoken to one another again.  All of us have always had big personalities, and while we were growing up those personalities sometimes caused family time to descend into emotional anarchy.

Yet here we are – all of us finally in our adult lives, filling out those personalities with maturity and respect for one another.  I have to point out that our sisters, being several years older than my brothers and I, made it to this point ages ago while we three younger siblings were still figuring out the basics.  But now that we have all been living in the grown-up world for several years and making our separate ways through it, perceptions have changed, and we can now see each other for who we really are and appreciate more the traits in each other that we previously took for granted.  And not only that – we have also come to see facets of our personalities that we never noticed before, both in each other and ourselves.

The night of the rehearsal dinner, the five of us recreated the sibling portrait that was photographed twenty years ago.  Looking at the two photos side by side, it makes me laugh and warms my heart each time.  We’re definitely all different, but in little ways we’re all the same.  The original photo captured those big personalities in our younger selves, and the recreation captured those same personalities expressed and handled by more mature and grown-up people.

If there is one thing that I took away from this whirlwind wedding weekend, it was the utmost importance of my siblings and the presence of each one of them in my life.

These are the first minds that taught me how to see the world from different perspectives and to think for myself.  These are the hands that slap sense to me as well as soothe my wounds. These are the hearts that love me even when I am not the least bit likable; the arms that catch me when I fall; the voices that answer late-night, cross-country phone calls.  These are the smiles that brighten up every room and the wits that brighten every conversation.

We might not always like each other, but we do always love each other.  And I know that I can count on my siblings to be there for me and to stand with me on the day when it will be my turn to bring a new brother into their hearts, and that they will help be bring a new son into our mother’s.


My favourite first sister

My oldest sister turned forty today, and aside from the occasional outburst of disbelief and bewilderment at the fleeting passage of time, in the months leading up to this day she has avoided the existential crisis that normally accompanies milestone birthdays after thirty. (In the last week or so leading up to today, however, there have been several outbursts of various lines and riffs from “The Final Countdown.”)

However, I’m only twenty-four, so what do I know about age? Thus, as I cannot discuss this issue further to any profit, I will move on from my sister’s age and tell you more about who she is – at least, inasmuch as she is to me.

There are sixteen years and three siblings between us, but it is often remarked by family, friends, and new acquaintances alike that she and I are quite similar. We are the shortest among my parents’ offspring (though she is, by an inch, indisputably the shortest) and it has been remarked that our faces – especially when graced with smiles – are the most alike. We share a love-hate relationship with our womanly curves and small statures, particularly where anything involving bras or pantyhose or new trousers are concerned, and both of us have a deep aversion to visible gray hair (yes, I already have several of my own).

We are both writers with a propensity towards the significant human experiences; we are both avid readers whose bookshelves are comfortingly similar; we are both talented with paper, ribbon, and glue; and we are both obsessed with making, eating, and photographing food. We are also both social introverts who can sit together on the same couch and be lost in our own activities, yet still feel perfectly content and connected to one another with minimal verbal interaction. If you open up our purses (though hers is considerably better-stocked than mine) you will find in both some kind of notebook and writing implement, breath mints, chocolate, and lip balm.

She loves pink roses, tea, chocolate, bacon, and Pimm’s. She makes ice cream in the middle of winter, because the snow that accumulates on the balcony is the only way to get the machine cold enough. She puts spirits into all of her baking. Nothing pleases her quite as much on a quiet afternoon as a glass or cup of something good to drink, a comfortable bed or chair, and a well-written book.

She is a woman of many talents and admirable qualities. She is the diplomat and mediator in the family, occupying that strange no-man’s land of eldest siblings that lies between the camps of parents and children while simultaneously bridging it. She is, all at once, another mother, a sibling, and a best friend: at times, the Ma to my Laura; at others, the Meg to my Amy; and through all the rest, the Diana to my Anne. (Indeed, it was on her bookshelf that I first found these classic treasures, and many more besides.)

She has endured my tantrums, my peskiness, and my shenanigans, bearing every instance of each with impeccable grace and good humor. My secrets are all safe with her, as are my knees when they are scraped and my heart when it is broken. Like all big sisters, she responds to that particular strain of kleptomania found in younger sisters – that which has a penchant for clothes, books, and stationery – with forgiveness and patience even as she suffers in silence at the loss of her possessions.

She is always learning, always growing, and always inspiring. And she is as much a part of me as either of my parents.

Happy birthday!