Friday, August 20, 2010

Jeff and I are at the stage in life where the gap between childhood and adulthood seems vast.  We look back on the minutiae of the 80s through a hazy lens: it all seems so long ago.  

We both have siblings to whom we are uncommonly close.  Growing up you live a parallel life (See: The Best is Ready to Begin, August 2008).  You relate to your parents in essentially the same way; you eat the same food; you take the same trips and gather the same harvest of school supplies each August.  I wore a blue sweatshirt, while my older sister had the pink.

You see what I mean.

And for many years, this is how it goes. You consume the same stories, you experience the same family fights. So much goes unsaid: all aspects of your life are unspoken certainties instead.  A simple glance could communicate all that needed to be said.  I could pad into my sister's bedroom (having had one of my all-too-common night terrors) and she'd wordlessly throw back the sheets, making room for me, nothing more than her sweet breath on my face, a scent I can conjure to this day: the (somehow-pleasant) smell of room-temperature milk.

For an absurdly verbose pre-adolescent, it was at my most-vulnerable I didn't have to find a single word.

I moved out of our parents' house when I was 18, to go to photography school.  My sister lived there a few years more while attending the local University. And while I only recently realized it, this is when our paths diverged. The moment the U-Haul pulled from the driveway we could no longer count on our short-hand, our shared-experience behind those walls.  At Thanksgiving and Christmas we, for the first time ever, had to spend time "catching up" and reacquainting ourselves. Behaviours were suddenly unpredictable, reactions to things once commonplace were now different.  It was odd and jarring, uncharted territory.  I think we weren't sure what needed to be said.

And those paths have become wider with every year, gaping at times. We no longer know each other like we did as kids. We are just people now instead of Boy and Girl Hudson. Differences have become glaring, resentments building out of nowhere, the chance to hash things out over breakfast, gone, instead choosing large family functions or misguided emails. It was easier when we simply sucker-punched each other or when I kicked her in the vagina (See: Becky, January 2008).  

But I think this is normal. I also think it's sad and a bit startling, as I sit here, putting it into words.

Jeff and his siblings (a brother, one year older, and a little sister, 7 years their junior) seem to be experiencing the same thing, as I imagine most do at this juncture.  Choices and changes and lives that no longer share a common course.  All those years of easy-understanding long gone now. No chance to shake the anger with a bit of sibling rivalry or thinly-veiled barbs over Cheerios.

Where once spending time together was the default, we need, now, to redesign our relationships out of sheer desire, rather than familial obligation.  We need to choose. We need to decide to love each other in a new way.  And we need to make sure we don't end up like so many of our parents: without the simple joy of fraternity.

And this is getting older.

(A photo you've seen before of Becky and me.  Jeff and his brother at about the same time in history.)


  1. What an amazing post, and sentiments I share with you EXACTLY. I have the same relationship with my older sister and I do miss those days when there was no work involved. And when she'd let me get in her bed after I woke up having a nightmare where "I lost my book."

    (I kicked my sister in the mommy/daddy button too...what is that?)

  2. Thanks, Daniel.
    Lost your book! I was always walking around the house turning on all the lights and looking out the windows. A bit panicked, but ultra-polite and focused. Foggy, foggy memories.

  3. Weird. Second article in one day about siblings. Too bad I don't have any. Le sigh.

  4. I'd sleepwalk crying into her room yelling I'd lost my book...

    Something existential

  5. Seeing as I currently live with my brother, drifting apart seems like an impossibility (especially because I literally just bought nearly identical glasses to his).

    While I guess we're both in sort of a weird, transitory, semi-adult phase, I'd like to think that our relationship (such that it is now) will lend itself to a stronger bond as we get older. We've discussed that our biggest fear is a relationship like our mom has with her brothers - friendly, but not close and always just on the edge of "never-speaking-again".

    But ultimately, who knows? Priorities change.

    Now I'm feeling far too reflective for Friday night...time to find gin.

  6. A beautifully written account of growing up, the never-ending process. I like the way you say we have at a certain point to decide to love each other and that is precisely how it was with my siblings - four half-sisters and a half-brother with whom I was not raised. Being the eldest of six and yet emotionally speaking an only child I had as an adult to get to know them and all the way it has been a matter of choice. Love did come.

  7. Have you ever seen those siblings (and they seem to be rare) who are ridiculously close? And I'm really referring to the ones who are able to keep that up into adulthood. It makes me really jealous.

    I've never had that, and I'm a twin. Your post definitely resonates with me. Plus, I love a good vest.

  8. beautifully written

  9. I've been reading your blog for quite a while now. LOVE it! Found you through jeremyandkathleen (she is my sister-in-law). I especially love this post. When you say "we need to choose" are so right.

  10. I love this. Siblings certainly are a relationship unlike any other... they can make me soo happy and soo mad in the same sentence, but I wouldn't trade my bro and sis for anything.

  11. Thanks for reading/commenting, all.

    Jamie - and aren't in-law siblings interesting too? I find it fascinating. You find comfort in being outsiders together, which is neat.

  12. Oh yes...between my two siblings and my husband's two siblings (everyone being married), I have many in-law siblings. Every single one of them bring something unique and wonderful to family gatherings. Different views on parenting, relationships, and just life in general are what I love the best. I must admit though...I kind of live vicariously through my brother and Kathleen. :)

  13. Ah yes, nothing says nostalgia quite like a kick to the vagina.

    Seriously though, I love this post. You've charted your relationship with your sister with thoughtfulness and uncommon elegance.

    Interestingly, this is one of the few 'family' posts that didn't generate an instant sense of recognition. I've actually grown closer to my sister in the years since I left home (you'd love her, by the way; imagine me as a foul-mouthed shit-kicker). I didn't grow up in the happiest of homes, and my family members were like four planets in their own individual orbits. The convention of the nuclear family was the gravity that kept us together. After my parents separated and we all grew older, we found new ways to connect and to appreciate each other as human begins. Ironically, I love my fractured family members much more now than when we were a unit.

  14. Really? You kicked her in the vagina? That is not nice, Jason. I am so thankful for my relationship with my siblings. It's what my parents did best. We've never really fought and have remained abnormally close. It is somewhat shocking when my brother or sister make a life decision without consulting me, but other than that we are exactly as we were as children; the best of friends.

  15. I read this and feel like I missed out on something. I have an older brother who is all but a stranger to me. I have always felt desperate for a sibling that I liked. I suppose I still am in some ways. I find surrogates, I think, but I am envious of those who have the real deal, so to speak.

    This post is very sweet.