Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sibling Rivalry: A Love Story

The following is a piece I wrote for publication.  It was rejected.  I rewrote it.  Again, rejected.  A different publication showed a brief and momentary interest in it.  But again, rejected.  Then I thought to myself, 'Hey, Self!  I have a blog where no one rejects me!  Well, if they do I don't hear about it.'  So, here you go.  Please don't reject me.  

                                                 SIBLING RIVALRY: A LOVE STORY

It snowed last year:  I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.  –Dylan Thomas.

Is there a relationship so exasperating, exhilarating, angst-ridden, hilarious, bonding, mortifying, constant, giggle inducing, and annoying as that of siblings?  If there is, I have yet to see it.  Although we may love our friends, think we’ve told our girlfriends everything there is to know about us, lean on our spouses, have deep talks with our parents, adore our grandmas, and even sometimes befriend our own offspring, only our siblings knew us from the time of the younger’s birth and will be there when the last one breathes their last.  The language between brothers and sisters is even without words at times; a nod, a shrug, a snort, a shake of the head, a wave of the hand, and they instantly know what the other is communicating.  They interject your childhood tale with a well place eye roll, because after all, they were there too and know when you’re exaggerating.   
My sister – homeschooled beside me during the 1980s - is someone who, even when she struggles to understand me, is the type of fiercely loyal sibling who would drive the get-away car for me after I’ve knocked over the Piggly Wiggly.  If someone dared to suggest I should rethink my life of crime, she’d defend me.  This I know.  And I would do the same for her, although me being the elder I would probably smack her upside the head at the same time.  We’ve gone to bat for each other more times than I even remember.  I recently found my old diary and it was sprinkled throughout with all sorts of references to my sister; a few complimentary, some angry and critical, most ridiculous (I was eleven).  All of the mean parts were crossed through as though in remorse I had seen fit to undo what I had done to her by describing her character so unjustly.  Nowadays, she would still drive the get-away car for me, although in these later years it would be a van full of children, sometimes quarreling siblings themselves.  In fact, we’d be sure to be caught by the police as we pulled over to the side of the road to lecture them about the importance of being kind to your brothers and sisters.            
A sister is someone who will be brutally honest, snuggle under the covers during thunder storms, huddle with you during fearful times, loan you her clothes, steal your clothes, bully you herself but stand up for you with anyone else, braid your hair and pop your pimples.  She has heard you cry yourself to sleep, seen you in your birthday suit, was there when your first crush broke your teenage heart, conspired against your mutual parents with you, did your homework for you, solved mysteries and fought crime with you as her sidekick, learned to drive with you, and either did everything first or everything last, depending on birth order.  My sister is the first person to know when something is wrong with me and the last person I would want to hurt, although ironically she’s usually the first despite my good intentions.  She’s the finisher of all my good quotes and the only one who understands why I think they’re so funny.  We have numerous one liners that crack us up even though neither one of us could tell you why anymore; somewhere through thirty years we’ve forgotten the source.  Why would the declaration that the mashed potatoes are creamy be so hilarious, especially when there are no mashed potatoes to be had?  We’re not quite sure anymore…but we will always bring it up and then laugh together as everyone else in the room raise their eyebrows and back away slowly.  She’s the borrower of all my cute shoes, the thief behind most of my lost earrings, and in a way that only makes sense:  as a chubby little black haired babe perched precariously for a Kodak moment in my three year old arms, she stole my heart long ago.
If you don’t understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.  –Linda Sunshine.

Sibling rivalry began in the garden of Eden and will continue as long as we call our fallen world our home.  Imagine how different the road trips in Heaven will be!  Why, I don’t know about you, but I plan on driving from one galaxy to another with nothing but peace in the backseat!

The lines of distinction are blurred when you have a sibling that is the same gender and close to the same age.  Their lives are conjoined and entirely fluid, even more so when they’re homeschooled.   Four and five year old sisters are almost one whole person.  This was evident one day as I asked my daughters what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Five year old Cora responded, ‘A cowgirl.’  Anna scowled and crossed her little arms over her chest.  ‘Fine,’ she muttered, unhappily, ‘I guess I’ll be the horse.’  Two separate identities and directions would have been unfathomable, unthinkable, and probably unexplainable to them.  If one is a cowgirl, then it only stands to reason that the other has to be the horse.  Poor little whippersnapper had to retire her dreams of being a doctor at an early age and learn instead to gallop properly.  Lucky for her, or unluckily, Cora at the ripe old age of eleven has changed her career path to Marine Biology.  Let us hope Anna swims well and can speak dolphin.

I’m sure the rivalry in our house will only escalate in the teen years, as much as I fight the idea.  There will be arguments over lip gloss and shoes, homework and drivers’ permits, chalk lines drawn down the middle of the bedroom, missing jewelry and clothes, more eye rolls than I care to think about, crossed out diary entries, hung up phone conversations, accusations, competition, drama and tears.  There will also be laughter, giggle fits, toe nail painting, hair braiding, shared jokes and quotes that no one else will understand or remember, late night cups of tea, whispered dreams, a whole lot of secrets, pinky swears, and hugs.  If I’m blessed enough, it will last until they wish the same things for their granddaughters and grandsons:  a rivalry that was really a love story.

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  1. Love it! I figure that having the fifth generation of "two girls," I should be able to "get it right." but then again . . .

  2. smiles. not rejected...it warmed me as i see similar in my boys at times, as it was with me and mine...

  3. this speaks so well what I feel about my brother. He IS my childhood. He is the person if he walks in a room when I am sad, my soul bursts and I cry, just at the sight of him. I don't pretend with him, I can't. There is never been a relationship so rewarding and so aggrivating. I think because it's having an out of body relationship with yourself.

  4. Very honest post - I've got three boys, and somedays I wish I homeschooled...even with the "fights".

  5. Oh how accurate this is! My sister and I were that and now I see the same intimacy among my three children. Unfortunately their deepest hurts, as well as their deepest love, comes from their siblings too. We are practicing well the art of forgiveness here!

  6. heartwarming.

    Family members are blood bonded, love survives.

  7. Having a sibling is like having a out of body experience with yourself. I love that!

    Thanks for the love, everyone. :)

  8. nice... i love that you posted this, that you didn't give up on it. it resonates deeply. happy thanksgiving friend!

  9. i just had a chance to read this. and now im crying again.