Giving Thanks for Brothers and Sisters

Thanksgiving is a great time to cherish the bonds that make siblings so special. I grew up as one of five kids in a rural area of western Virginia where we had few neighbors. We mostly played amongst ourselves and looking back it was a huge blessing. We were very close.

My brothers and sisters have spread far and wide across the country and we try to meet annually for either Christmas or Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving, most of us met at Garrison, NY in my dad’s unrented rental house. Our children slept on the floors and we had a blast. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we took the kids into New York City to see the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum. When we first got out of the subway, we looked up. I saw a familiar-looking landmark. “Look kids!” I said pointing. “There’s the Empire State Building.” A man walking beside me looked too and said, “Chrysler Building.” “Look kids,” I said correcting myself. “It’s a New York City building.” My husband laughed.

In advance of the trip, we had spent a month reading “The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” which takes place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But because of all our sightseeing, we had only a few minutes to sprint through the Egyptian room before it closed. Later, I asked my kids if they’d enjoyed the museum. “Sure,” my daughter replied, “All 5 minutes of it.” It seems sarcasm starts as early as 8 years old these days.

Sightseeing aside, the best part of the holiday was spending time with my siblings, their kids and my Dad. We try to make sure our kids have a close relationship with their cousins. So they get a lot of play time together. One time, my son (a Cruise Ship Entertainment Director in the making) was trying to organize the cousins into a game of cops and robbers. “Sit down guys.” He said. “I’m in charge.” He is the oldest of the bunch. “But I’ve got a gun,” his younger cousin Jimmy replied. He had a point.

For my two, we work hard to make sure they have a strong bond too. We had some friends in Atlanta whose kids seemed to fight all the time and really, really not like each other. So, when my two fight or complain, I use my mother’s somewhat corny reprimand that I still remember, “Your sister is your best friend.” Or “Your brother is your best friend.” I use it a lot.

The other week, we asked my 12-year-old son babysit my daughter while we went out. I told him to make sure his sister went to bed at 9:00.

“Do I have to kiss her?” he asked. I paused. “Do you usually kiss her?” I asked. We’ve let him babysit a few times before. “Yes.” He said barely looking up from his Angry Birds like the pre-teen he is. So it seems, when we instructed him to put his sister to bed, he must follow exactly what we do and give her goodnight kiss on the forehead. Too sweet. I’m guessing he must also stand there and repeat “brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth” over and over until she actually completes that task too.

Sadly, this year, I got together with my siblings an additional time in February, when we got the call that there was a 50% chance my dad’s might not make it after his emergency ceratoid artery operation. While there, we were allowed to go into the room one at a time and hold my dad’s hand while he slept. It was very hard to see my strong father barely hanging on from his stroke. One time, I remember coming out of that room feeling so low. Then in the waiting room, I saw the faces of my brothers and sisters, healthy, reassuring and strong. And I felt like it would be OK. Luckily, my dad survived those hours and is working on his recovery. But I kept that strong feeling of being blessed, of having someone who knows where I’m coming from. A home base. A best friend (or four). Mother was right after all.

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