As I sit squashed into economy seating on my second American Airlines plane of the day, having started this journey in the dark and snowy pre-dawn, first driving for four hours, flying for another six, to find a place at the Thanksgiving table among my siblings, children, mother, all 3000 miles away, it is not hard to ponder the pull of blood ties and how we, as a nation, and as a world, (as evidenced by the millions of travelers at this moment) strive to find solace in the company of family.
What is the impulse that makes siblings band together?
There are points in life when an answer isn’t so clear. There must have been at least a solid decade when my three children lived separate lives. They climbed into the same school bus every morning and returned to the same story and a half farmhouse every night, but they were out going in a myriad of directions, on different soccer fields, or one playing softball while another baseball, or one preparing for an upcoming piano recital while another headed thirty miles away for orchestra practice, violin in the trunk, or just in their thinking about the future with distinctly divergent lenses.
Age separated them too, seven years between brothers, with a sister in between. Interests didn’t collide easily; in fact, in those early years all one could see was the distinctions. Their complexion and coloring, their physical size, their body clock, culinary taste, even musical taste, all ran contrary and contrasted. But like all beings that share a similar core, these three purposely came together to attend all the big moments for each other: the regional track meet, the soccer championship, the art show, all six of their respective graduations, and the big accident where the youngest defied physics to live yet so scared his siblings they never left his side until told all would mend.
As I reflect I understand it is no coincidence my children have advanced to adulthood as ‘besties’, for their maternal Grandmother at 83 can think of nothing more fabulous than laughing the night away with her brothers, or heading off on yet another adventure with her older sister (this year it was Spain, last the Panama Canal, before that Egypt, and Alaska…) or even having a phone conversation with any of her score of relations. We were taught family came first, but not with mere lip-service, but through the joyous embrace that comes across when you truly love. Surrounded by the artifacts of that familial engagement, photographs lining the walls and the colorful stories that went with them, always told and retold, brought to life the past.
As a mother I can think of no other joy than watching my three grown children, each fully their own individual self yet able to appreciate each other wholly. Are there sometimes disappointments between them? Or disagreements? Or hard words? Most definitely…for as I now sit around the Thanksgiving table with my four brothers I can recall plenty of rough spots too. But I am equally confident these bonds will continue to propel us out of our comfy beds at dawn so that when the time comes to stand together and be a family with all the mess we will all come along for the ride. Thankfully.