See to Your Siblings

“Be kind to your brothers and sisters,“ Mr. Spainhower advised my high school English class. “If you’re good to them, they’ll be part of your life for more years than your parents, spouses, or children.”

When younger—engaged in teasing, tattling, and fisticuffs with my six siblings—I would have scorned such an idea. Who’d want to be stuck with that throng of thugs forever?

I remember sluggishly pushing our vacuum down the hall and glaring at Carolyn, who ironed in the kitchen, popping nary a bead of sweat. She sneered back at me, took a sip of lemonade, turned up the radio, and sang along: “How much is that doggie in the window—arf! arf!”

Seemed more like a party than work to me.

Pushing the belching machine into the living room, I aimed for Barbara, who sat on the floor pairing freshly laundered socks. Concentrating on her task, she didn’t look up, increasing the chances I could inflict serious injury. But when Mom entered the room, I veered off course and listened as she collected Barbara’s work and praised her, “Look at the good job you’ve done; you’re getting to be a big help.”

What was I? An incompetent orphan on loan from the poor house?

No, I was an unhappy teenager concentrating on my grievances rather than the love, friendship, and fun I derived from my siblings.

Hundreds of miles now separate us, but we continue to talk on the telephone, visit one another, and get together every summer. Recently, I showed a friend a picture taken of us at one of our reunions. As I named each sibling, I thought about how she must see us: wrinkled, gray, stooped, balding, sagging, adorned with hearing aids and glasses, wearing comfortable shoes and roomy clothes.


Boys, L to R: Bob, JL, Lawrence, Blaine
Girls, L to R: Barbara, Carolyn, Janet

When I look at the photo, however, I remember us as we were when young: energy-filled, happy, and best friends. I see brothers and sisters who know me completely and love me still; siblings who have been kind to each other and have remained part of each other’s lives.

Sometimes in dreams I return to the childhood homes I shared with my brothers and sisters. We’re gathered in the kitchen: I feel the presence of our parents; I hear laughter; and I relax into the sense of belonging I feel when with my family.

Cherish your brothers and sisters.

Have some thoughts
about maintaining relationships with siblings?
Let me know.

Recap of Comments on A Reluctant Author
Janice confided she has long dreamed of doing her own artwork and now that she is, she feels wonderful and scared at the same time. I know the feeling.

Dawna wrote, “I put my talents/hobbies on the back burner to sit behind a keyboard each day, and every key I press tells me that I could be doing something more.” Dawna is talented, and I believe she will find her way to that something.

Mary plans to forward Aunt Beulah’s advice to someone who’s boldly stepped into a new position and is questioning her ability. I hope the recipient finds my words helpful.



12 thoughts on “See to Your Siblings

  1. This post brought tears to my eyes and a longing to go “home” to be with my siblings and parents who I cherish as much as you do. A very fitting post for this time of year. I miss my siblings, their smart mouths, their laughter, their love during this time of year but most importantly, I miss my parents and the feeling of family that I cherish so much. Thank you, Aunt Janet. You aren’t the only one that returns to relax in the sense of belonging. I go there often, if only in my dreams.


  2. This post made me cry. Does that longing ever really go away? I feel so blessed that my childhood included you and each of your siblings. It felt so full and happy. Now when we gather as siblings it feels so precious. Experience has taught us that each time might be the last time. Thank you Aunt Janet for the lovely reminder.


  3. I have two sisters, one 5 years older and one 3 years younger. My younger sister and I fought a lot, including physical wrestling, when we were younger and I always blamed her that I got one of my few spankings (even though I was being a brat). As we got older, she would wait for me to leave for school and then “borrow” my clothes, which infuriated me. My older sister and I shared fixing each other’s hair, nails, dresses, and she was my mentor on becoming a teenager.

    I remember every Christmas we would get new nightgowns, sewn by our grandmother,. That is what we would open on Christmas Eve; after church we would put them on and all crawl into a double bed and sleep together until about 4:00 a.m. Then we would get up together and be off an running.

    The three of us could get the giggles and laugh until we cried. We can still do that and even though our phone calls, cards and visits are few and far between. I know either one of them would be there in a heartbeat if I needed them. We are all three very different people, but we are still sisters and love each other and always have a great time when together.

    I love the stories of your much larger family and can relate totally to all of them. Its amazing how much more desirable they become and we all get older.


  4. As I grow older, I am astonished at the unique attributes I see in each of us five Younger ‘kids’, I so appreciate the kindness we show each other even after the bruises and battles of so many disagreements. Seems we are becoming our parents in showing tolerance, looking for the good in most situations and showing our love for each other. I am so lucky.


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