Remember when you took a bath with your brother or sister?
When swimming around the bathtub actually felt spacious? Remember how the bubbles became your beard? The water became the vast ocean and you got in trouble for splashing all over the floor? And then you laughed because you were the wild things, because whatever mom, it was worth it! My boat ride was rad!
Remember all the messes you made together? Were you ever called a holy terror or hell on wheels? Were you the Master of Destruction? Or were you more of a tidy child? I don’t know what a tidy child looks like.
Remember all those hours spent watching those great 80’s shows? The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Night Rider, (you watched those, too, right?) Did you argue over who got the remote? Did you ever get kicked out of the house for being so obnoxious? Told not to come in until it was dark?
Remember the epic fights? The yelling, pinching, biting, wrestling, punching, screaming, I hate you moments?? Remember how UNFAIR it was!!???
Remember how cool you were? Did you ever sneak out of the house with an outfit your mother said made you look like a tramp? (ouch.) The too-much mascara, the stuffed training bra, and take-on-the-world attitude? Or maybe you carried a skateboard, flipped kids “the bird” and threw crab apples at cars just because you could.
Were you a licking family? Or is this just a strange genetic trait my family has?
When did you last run in the rain and didn’t care if your hair got wet or your nightgown was see-through?
Or rolled down a hill and didn’t care if you looked like a an idiot or screamed at the top of your lungs because you were so darn happy to be alive?
This is what my little family looked like, many years ago. I am on the left with that great haircut. This was before baby Patrick was born, when everyone thought Andrea and I were the twins, instead of Peter and I. This is when Peter refused to wear shoes for pictures.
I am older than my mother was in this picture. But I’m sure I wear the same dazed and confused expression. Gregor is older than my dad was in this picture. Is life really aging us? Can that be true? I feel like I’m still that girl in the picture. I’m still that young. Maybe a smidge older. Sometimes.
Did you ever really think that you’d grow up and not be within arm’s length of licking? How can there ever be that much distance between siblings? No, never.
And yet, here we are. We’ve grown up. I am the oldest. The shrimp.
My siblings and I get to see each other so rarely now. We are spread out all over the United States and a once-a-year-sighting is lucky.
But here is the important thing: We make it happen.
Every year we make new memories and revive the old ones. The dusty memories are forgotten unless you tell them over and over and over. Every single year. Like when we convinced little brother that the dog poop in the neighbor’s yard was a brownie. These things were so hilarious.
We parents shouldn’t be too offended if we are the target of sibling jokes and mimicry; this is how siblings bond: Making fun of ma and pa.
And isn’t it amazing, that when we finally reunite, it’s like we were never apart? We revert to our childhood ways. I mean, when’s the last time you did a cartwheel?
There are some things that will never change. This is one of them: Stealing giant spoonfuls of cookie dough.
We’ve had babies, lost babies, accepted jobs, lost employment, found peace, lost peace. We love our spouses, we struggle in marriage. We don’t know what to do with the stubborn 2-year-old, so we tell stories of how life gets better. This is how we get through things: Our siblings lift us, remind us that we used to wet the bed, but eventually stayed dry at night. I mean, if you have been accidentally, but repeatedly peed on by a sibling, that should count for a lot, don’t you think?
Somehow, the power of the
pee sibling is an anchor. It’s so old, so solid, it transcends a fleeting today. It goes so far back that most all memories will include a sibling, emerging from the mind at the oddest of times.
We can rid ourselves of many relationships. But the brother? The sister? They’re for keeps. For better or for worse, we came together.
Sometimes from other countries, from different mothers and fathers.
But the word “brother” or “sister” bonds us for life.
And if you’re really lucky, those brothers and sisters will become like parents to your children. They will remind your kids how sweet and nice you really are, when your kids can’t possibly believe it’s true.
My husband and his brothers have decided that roasting a pig in the ground is bonding. While at first I turned up my nose, I realized, that it’s not really about the pig.
It’s about bringing up the body together. Because this is FUN.
It really doesn’t have to be a pig.
The pig was really about TIME. It’s spending hours on the phone, sending emails, snorting, planning, the strategy of the perfect bake. It’s gathering wood, researching fire techniques, digging a giant hole in the ground, debating, testing theories, and finding enough granite stone to make an outdoor oven. It’s dressing the pig in the kitchen together.
It’s laughing, making fun of each other, calling each other names, and finding compromise among strong-willed competitive boys.
It’s taking rotating shifts through the night and day to make sure piggy is cooking. Usually, in our family, it has something to do with eating. But it’s not really about the pig.
It could be a duck.
Or a goose.
Or none of these things at all.
Sometimes it’s just I don’t want to run in the middle of winter but fine! I’ll do it for you – only for you! Ah…don’t the awful, hard things make for the best of memories?
The satisfaction and bonding come with the time spent together.
It’s watching Glenn cook a Truduckin: Duck stuffed in chicken stuffed in turkey. (I hope I got that right.)
It’s triumph at setting out to do something together and having success! But even if you fail, that turns into a memory. Like the Hike From You Know Where. Which also involved Glenn. 🙂
Remember. It’s not about the pig.
It’s the time
If you don’t make it happen, who will?
Every year my family has a family reunion. My mother, tired of all the organizing, delegated the planning to her children. The siblings now rotate location and organization. We have about a week together. It requires a year of discussion. It requires hours of coordinating outfits for the family photo. It requires saving hundreds of dollars. It requires flight plans, changing flight plans, driving fatiguing distances, and watching your children light up at the chance to see their best beloved cousins.
And there’s never a question of whether it’s worth it or not.
We’ve started a new tradition. We have fun all day and night and then right before bed we have a devotional and spiritual thought for the day.
Our prayers make us realize it’s not just about us, but ALL of us. We pray for help, call down the power of heaven, for we know that God honors those who honor him. We’ve seen the miracles. We express thanks, for all the good things we have. This tradition has brought a spirit into the room that binds us even closer together. My brothers have become men.
My sisters have become women. There are no wimps allowed. It is the tender, nurturing, baby whispering warrior in my sisters that buoy up the warrior in me.
Through the years, we somehow look older.
If we take care of our relationships, we become great friends, not just brothers or sisters
Older siblings set powerful examples for the younger ones. It is within their power to teach us about love. And vice versa.
Yes, we are growing older, but we have our faces turned to the light. There is great hope ahead.
As we look to our own children.
This summer I spent much time thinking about siblings. I think of the children I am raising, of the relationships they have with each other. Have they learned what they need to? Will they be close or fall away from each other? There are only four summers left before the oldest leaves for college.
Instead of separating my children, keeping them apart, I only want to keep them together. I have to remind myself of the powerful lessons to be learned when they’re driving me crazy, squished together in a small car. When they must be banished outside until it’s dark. Together.
I wonder. Are they learning to leap? Are they doing hard things together? Are they each other’s biggest champions? Are they making enough memories? Will their childhood be a wonderful memory?
When time fades like a photograph
Will they remember hot summer nights laughing? And the time Cope had such a bad sunburn she couldn’t wear a proper shirt?
I hope so.
As a sibling, I know the power
Of a really heavy brother. But we carry them anyway. And tomorrow they’ll carry our tug-a-lugs.
Here is something I believe: As long as we’re alive, it’s never too late to reach out. Text, email, call. Or lick. It’s all good.
It’s a long post, (sorry!) but my looooove is long…
Is your sibling your BFF? I’d love to hear.