I am one of five siblings. Actually, I’m fifth born, so maybe that means I am five of five siblings. In any case, there are five of us, three girls and two boys, born over a fourteen year span of time. The year I started kindergarten, my two sisters were already away at college. That sometimes leads us to interesting family memories. We have ‘older kids’ memories of which I am absent, and I have ‘only child’ memories, considering by the time I was 12, I was the only kid living at home.
Aside from parents, siblings are our first leaders and mentors. Mine were the best. I loved their music, their friends, and doing just about anything they were doing. Whether it was by choice or parental mandate, some of my earliest memories are of tagging along wide-eyed and excited to be included. I went on babysitting jobs, worked on high school homecoming parade floats, and clung on to my brother for dear life while we rocketed down country roads on his motorcycle, all before losing my first baby teeth.
Naturally, there are family times that didn’t include everyone. As I look through the family photo album there are many pictures where there are four, three, or two siblings participating in a family event or a summer vacation. It’s fun to play the guessing game, Where Were You When This Photo Was Taken? Answers vary from, “I think I was away at school”, “I must have been working at the golf course”, to “I think that was taken while I was in the service.” My oldest brother lived in South America for 29 years and our family went through times that stretched over years that we didn’t see him. But always in my mind, my family memories are inclusive of the group.
My son is an only child. Considering how much my siblings mean to me, I never wanted that for him, but there it is. He has some close cousin relationships, (not something I had growing up) and he has a circle of friends that is surely as close as some siblings. Of course, providing siblings to a child doesn’t ensure a close relationship. Neither do threats of consequences. A friend told me that whenever she would fight with her brother, her dad would put a hand on each of their heads and clunk them together and tell them if they had nothing else, they would always have each other. It didn’t make them closer; it did make them cautious of standing too close to each other.
My siblings and I live very different lives. We also live very similar lives. There are circumstances that have brought us closer to one or another at different times over the years. We have always been supportive. I’m sure we’ve stuck together like many families, through the growing of our own families, careers and illnesses, and the passing of our parents. But no one else has the memories that we do of Don’t Get Mad, Italian family dinners, Blind Man’s O Hell, Jib Jab videos, and hamburger green bean casserole.
One of the songs from the soundtrack of my childhood is You Were On My Mind by We Five. My sister had the 45.
When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind. And you were on my mind.
The lyrics from there, of a person fighting a bad break-up, have nothing to do with siblings, but it still makes me think of us. I often text or talk with my siblings before I arrive at work in the morning. It’s rare, but I love a day when the four most recent texts on my phone are from my four sibs. I always think of us as We Five, and we will always be.