Thing My Siblings Have Taught Me

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” – Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou couldn’t have said it any better.

Today is National Sibling Day, and in honor of that, I am dedicating this post to my three younger siblings. Two brothers, one sister, all three amazing people.

Older siblings, and especially the oldest, are generally given the role of leader and teachers. I have at least seven years on my siblings, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing any more than they do. In fact, those three little terrors have taught me a considerable amount.

 

The youngest boy child- 11 years old, obsessed with video games, a fantastic artist.

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Contents of the 5″ binder.

Sometimes, being social is more important than work.

Last summer, I carried around a massive, 5-inch binder filled to bursting with double-sided pages. They contained an earlier draft of Nightfall. Clipped to the top ring was a bright red pen. From the time I woke up in the early afternoon (because jet lag is a thing, seriously) through to suppertime, I would sprawl about the dining table, crossing out weak sentences, rewriting dialogue, and stressing over deadlines.

At least once an hour, my youngest brother would come and check on me.

“Do you wanna play a video game?”

“Do you wanna go to the library?”

“Can I watch you?”

Sometimes, I gave in. We’d push the papers away, pull up YouTube videos on my computer, and laugh together. Sometimes, we would put everything away and go ask our stepmom for the car keys so we could run to the corner store for slushies or to the library for a new book.  And other times, I would say no, so he would quietly watch as I puzzled over a particularly perplexing passage.

Other times, I was short with him. I’d send him on his way to play with one of the other kids, or to my boyfriend for an art lesson. I would complain about how I couldn’t focus with him talking every thirty seconds, and it was going to take me longer to write if he kept that up.

Both of these reactions are what makes us siblings. I love my youngest brother dearly. The big, black binder still sits on a shelf in our father’s house. I didn’t take it back to Washington with me after I finished with it (that’s near 15 pounds I managed to keep out of my suitcase), but every time I think about a note I scribbled in the margins, or a change that happened in one of the last drafts, I think back to my brother. I think back to that summer.

The summer he insisted love and family is more important than work. And the little 11-year-old was right.

 

The younger girl twin- 13 years old, an artist and writer, the quiet one.

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Reading an early version of Nightfall.

Most people are familiar with the Robert Frost’s “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Frustrating, but so true. There are moments I write through a thin haze of tears. One memory in particular comes to mind when I think of that quote and my little sister.

I had been editing for hours, and I had just about had it with one scene. I was rehashing every bit of pain Oliver had lived through, and it was starting to take an emotional toll. (Side note: Never let anyone tell you writing isn’t emotional work. It is.) I heard a soft knock on my bedroom door and looked up to see my sister, her mouth set in a frown, eyebrows knit together in concern.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

I sniffled and rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand, thankful I’d skipped makeup that morning. “Yeah. Just a difficult scene, that’s all.”

“Oh,” she stated. That was one of the best things about her. No matter what I threw at my sister, she’d take it with grace. “Mom said to come get you for dinner.”

I smiled and started to put my writing up. “Tell Amy I’ll be right there.”

It took me about ten minutes to wash my face and put my binder somewhere safe from the small pack of dogs running through the house. When I finally managed to meander to the kitchen, there were three pieces of leftover okra left, a scoop of spaghetti, and not a single bread roll.

“It didn’t take me that long to get out here!” I exclaimed.

My sister leaned over the bar separating the living room and kitchen. “Oops, sorry. I took the last roll. Do you want it?”

There should have been warning signs. Generosity? Kindness? Oh, but that’s the way that girl is. She’s the literal definition of sugar and spice, and that’s why she’s so good at pranking.

I thanked her while going to take a small bite of the bread. Seconds later I was leaned over the trash can, scraping my tongue and gagging. “What the hell? Don’t you want any bread with your butter!”

The whole family, 10 of us, erupted in laughter. When I got the awful taste out of my mouth, I was laughing, too. My sister’s devious smirk made it all make sense-she would cheer me up at any cost.

 

The older boy twin- 13 years old, obsessed with science, video games, and competition

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Washington is incredibly green.

I was sitting on the couch playing a game on my computer when my brother sat down beside me. “Why don’t you go outside during the day?” he asked.

I pressed the pause button and looped the headphones around my neck. “Because it’s hot out there,” I said simply.

“It’s only 95 degrees today!”

That’s when I knew a small battle was on the horizon. “Alright,” I explained, turning in my seat to face him and putting my laptop on the coffee table. This deserved all of my attention. “It’s 95 degrees out there and I’ve been in Texas for two days. Where do I live most of the year?”

“Washington.”

“And what’s it like in Washington?”

“Well, usually rainy.”

“So why do I go outside at nighttime?”

He looked at me like I had grown a second set of limbs. “Because you’re a Northerner.”

I sighed. “If you knew that already, why’d you ask?”

I regretted that question the second he started snickering. “Because you’re weird. You don’t think grass is green or like our ice cream, either!”

That night, after my stepmother sent me to the store, the boy twin was presented with dozens of photos of the Washington forests, rivers, lakes, and a pint of (obscenely expensive) Oregon ice cream. He believes me now. Our perspectives are different, but we can both appreciate a good bowl of classic strawberry.

 

My siblings have taught me the value of family, laughter, and seeing things from other perspectives. They’re young, and I’m excited to see where they’re going to go in life. I hope I’ve managed to teach them some valuable lessons, too.

 

 

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