Sometimes everything has to be enscribed across the heavens so you can find the one line already written inside you. Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that small, bright, and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart. David Whyte

Writing 101 – Sibling Snapshots

on September 23, 2015

Among my huge accumulation of family photos there are some snapshots that are so vivid in my mind I don’t need to look at the actual picture to remember them. Some of my favorites are of my two sisters, my brother and me.

There is a black and white photo of the time my parents took me and my sisters to Galveston, Texas to the beach. All three of us sisters were born in the span of three and a half years. Our little brother arrived five years after my youngest sister. I am the oldest. The black and white photo shows us sitting on the sand just above the water line. We have constructed a sand castle by dribbling fistfuls of sand like cake icing until it is shaped like an up-side-down cone. The slowly incoming tide has filled the moat we dug around the bottom of our castle with water. Our mother sits and watches while we crawl around adding finishing touches to our creation. I remember our wool bathing suits that were scratchy when they were dry. We were wet so that was no problem. Our little brother is not in the picture because he was not born yet.

Taken on my fifth birthday there is a black and white snapshot of my sisters and me wearing identical dresses. I am holding a Story Book Doll, my favorite present. Our mother made the dresses for us from remnants from our grandfather’s shirt tailoring business. The dresses were a dusty blue with a square neckline framed by an eyelet ruffle embroidered with tiny rosebuds. Of course the photo doesn’t show the colors. Our little brother is not in the picture because he is not born yet.

Skip ahead to my college days. I have come home for spring break my Freshman year. The weather is warm and the azaleas are in bloom in the flower bed in front of our house. There is a picture taken with color film of the four of us siblings standing like stair steps in front of the azaleas. I remember my bright red sweater. We three sisters are wearing Bermuda shorts which have just come into fashion. We stand tall and smile for the camera. Our little brother looks like he wishes he were somewhere else.

Our mother died one Christmas morning when we sisters were in our thirties and our brother still in his twenties. The funeral was held in the small town where my mother was born and many family members and friends still lived. After the service we went to the cemetery where my grandparents were buried. My mother would join them. There is a picture of us four siblings standing by the gate of the wrought iron fence that enclosed the family plot. My coat is sky blue and one of my sisters has on a camel and black plaid coat. We look so young though we sisters are married with children. My brother’s first child is on the way. It was sad to think this child would not know our parents.

In the summer of 2014 the sister next to me in age invited me to visit her and her husband. She said we had better start getting together since we sisters were in our seventies. Our youngest sister who lives nearby drove over to spend one night. We never did stop talking. My brother-in-law decided he would start the grill and fix supper if he expected to have anything to eat. He’s a great cook. He took a picture of us sisters sitting on a low brick wall on the front porch. We look happy wrinkles and all. Our brother is not in the picture because we hadn’t thought to invite him.

In the summer of 2015 we sisters decided it was time our little brother, now seventy, should bring his wife and join the rest of us for a few days at my youngest sister’s house. He’s never been very inclined to go to the big family reunions of my mother’s family held every five years. He surprised us and agreed to have our first-ever siblings gathering – no children or grandchildren, just the four of us. It was amazing! Words cannot describe the joy of telling the same old stories and seeing them from our different perspectives. We shared good belly laughs. We cried as we remembered what it was like to lose our mother. My brother-in-law cried when he told us about when his first wife died of cancer. Tears have a way of creating family ties. After our mini-reunion was over my brother asked when the next one would be. He felt we should start sharing what aging is like for each of us and what we are learning from the experience. After we returned to our homes we realized that no one had thought to take a picture.

12 responses to “Writing 101 – Sibling Snapshots

  1. J Lapis says:

    Wow–this was so moving; and I’m envious, as my sibling relationships are mostly estranged.

  2. jabrush1213 says:

    You are very blessed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

  3. Your family sounds very similar to mine. I’m the eldest of 4. Two sisters and the baby of the family is a boy. We forget to invite him too!

  4. rosemawrites says:

    You have a closely-knitted family and I am glad to hear your stories about them. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

    This is my fave: “Tears have a way of creating family ties.” I agrEE!

  5. PaulaMedical says:

    Great description of a nonphotograph memory. Like another responder, I only talk to my sister and even that it few and far between. I don’t speak with my half brother, I cannot even tell you if he’s still alive. But I wish we could have had that close connection. My mother died a few years ago, 2012-she was in her early 60s. We were not close either. I’m the one that does our ancestry research. How I wish we had those close moments to get more family stories out.

    • vivachange77 says:

      It is sad that your family does not connect with each other. Over the years we’ve had our differences and it is only now that we are in our 70’s that we gathered and were vulnerable with each other. My mother was 65 when she died. I was 35. I’m sorry you lost yours. Maybe you will find a sense of family from your ancestry research.

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