When I was a little girl I wanted a baby brother more than anything in the world, the way some little girls are supposed to want a puppy or a pony. When my parents were kind enough to come through with one several months before my 6th birthday I was overjoyed. It was not too long before I realized that this wonderful gift came with a few strings attached. He wasn’t really mine with whom to do anything l wanted. For instance, I couldn’t take him to school with me for Show & Tell or to bed with me in place of my favorites stuffed animal!
Nonetheless, the way I remember it he was an almost unmitigated delight from Day One. I always had a good time in his company, particularly once he could talk. We shared the same love of words and ridiculous sense of humor and still do.
I went away to school when I was 13 and, though I knew he would miss me, the only complaint I heard was that he would have to write to me in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and why couldn’t I have found a school in some easy to spell place like Watertown?
We haven’t lived under the same roof since then nor, for the past 51 years, even on the same coast. Yet a week hasn’t gone by when I haven’t missed him. His birthday present this year, in years worth of great and imaginative gift giving, was himself. He flew West to spend a few days at great expense of energy and money and the time together was far too short.
“What about sibling rivalry?” I am frequently asked. In fact, it was an article on that topic that brought me to the “pages“ of Psychology Today as a writer more than four years ago. A Psychology Today editor was looking into brother-sister relationships and I volunteered that mine, ours, was as trouble-free as they come. She, a fellow psychologist, was incredulous.
I have always explained the lack of any sibling rivalry between us by the fact that as the elder and as a girl I had certain privileges and as the youngest and a boy he had certain others. We were never in competition with one another for anything. Our parents loved us both, only differently, not one more than the other.
I liked both of his wives (sequential, not simultaneous) and he got along with all the important men in my life at various times over the years. I don’t remember ever being angry with him over anything and can only remember his being angry with me on two or three occasions and then only momentarily. I probably deserved more than that.
Both he and I had only children; me a daughter, he a son, depriving our children of a chance at a sibling relationship as good as ours has been. From all the siblings I have seen and heard about, it would have been a slim chance in any case. Some of us just luck out.