“As I reflect on my own sibling reunion, I am grateful for my big brother and big sister. I am thankful they bore with me through the awkward years…”
I am the baby of the family. My mother called me that for years after I towered over her. Let’s just say it is somewhat embarrassing to be called the baby when you are fifteen.
Over the fourth, my brother and I ventured out to Wyoming to visit with my sister. It has been fifteen years since the three of us have been together, the last time being at our mother’s funeral in 2004.
My brother lives five miles from where we grew up in rural Maine. My sister ventured out West, settling two thousand miles away. I dared to cross the state line and settle in New Hampshire, almost two hundred miles away.
Here are some of my reflections from this time with my siblings. I am not the baby anymore. For years, I felt the residual effects of being the youngest. A little less confident, a little clumsier, and a bit of a need to prove myself. I am happy to report that I finally accept that I am an adult on equal footing with my siblings.
My siblings are interesting people. My sister is a retired librarian, knows a lot about a wide variety of topics. They live in a beautiful part of the country with a view of snow covered mountains and antelope right outside their kitchen window. She can spin her own yarn and knit anything she sets her mind to, with or without directions. My brother is a retired steeple wright, having refurbished steeples all over the State of Maine. He has sailed most of the coast, built his own home and many others, and grows a large vegetable garden each year.
Martha and Bob are older than me. Our parents became more laid back as they gained experience in parenting. As with many families, there was a certain understanding that I was getting away with far more things than my siblings, which I can’t deny. I also had parents who were sometimes mistaken as my grandparents. I believe there are benefits and challenges no matter what your spot in the birth order.
We share much in common. There are stories and experiences and life views that the three of us share that no one else fully understands. We were raised by the same parents, in the same house, with the same relatives and family history. We saw the same books on the shelf, helped our dad in the same workshop, and watched our mother bake the same cookie recipes that we still know and love today. We grew up on overcooked string beans (which my siblings happen to love….), red flannel hash, and baked apples made from our Tolman Sweet tree.
We were not a family that easily said ‘I love you’. My father would purchase the fanciest Valentine or anniversary card he could find and then write in it ‘To Mary, from Robert’. They never talked about love, but we all knew we were loved. Actions truly do speak louder than words, but I have found that both words and actions are helpful.
At the core, I have concluded that we are siblings and will always be siblings. Martha will always be my sister and Bob will always be my brother. We will be there for each other. I can’t bring my sister dinner if she needs it tomorrow, but I can stay in touch. The wonders of email and texting and phone calls. I can send her pictures of my life and my family and she can do likewise. I can meet my brother and his wife in Kittery or visit for the weekend. We are family.
I know that every family is different. Not everyone can say they were raised by their birth parents, were loved, and are still in communication with their siblings. Families can be painful, guilt-inducing, and unhealthy. I get it.
As I reflect on my own sibling reunion, I am grateful for my big brother and big sister. I am thankful they bore with me through the awkward years when I was stepping on feet, laughing with a snort, and following them around like a puppy dog. I am thankful for the parents that raised us, with their quirks and foibles. They did their best and loved us. And it turned out alright.
Family. I am glad to work at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. We are here to strengthen families. Strong families make strong communities. And that makes it better for all of us.
Are you a parent? Caring for your grandchildren? The River Center is here for you. www.rivercenter.us.
Guess I should send my siblings some of those photos I took…..