Last week, we watched Tin Tin. I mostly watched Grace and Whit. At one point her leg was slung over the arm of his seat, and his hand rested on her foot. Sometimes this kind of intrusion results in a loud explosion of bickering, with some shoving. But at other times it falls unnoticed into the rich swamp of shared childhood that they are crossing together. I thought of the intense, often grubby intimacy of siblings, the way they are each other’s morning and night, the only other person growing in this unique terroir.
I missed my sister then, who is halfway across the world in Jerusalem. I’ve written before about the opinion, held by some, that our most formative relationships are with our sibling(s). And I have written reams about my particular sibling, my adored sister Hilary, the adventurous one, the brilliant one, the brave one.
Watching Grace and Whit – every day, but especially inside the hothouse of a week of vacation – I think of Hilary constantly. They are each other’s first peer relationship, the person with whom they share these essential early experiences, to whom they will announce excitement and heartbreak, against whom they will probably always measure themselves. They witness together the messy reality of our family life, both its raised voices and its enthusiastic embraces. I admit perhaps too readily that my desire to have a second child was secondary to my desire to have a sibling for Grace (of course, that faded the instant Whit arrived, when I immediately loved him as much as I’ve loved anyone else on earth). But my impulse was right, of that I’m certain. I am intensely thankful when I observe their closeness, striated as may be with arguing.
After all, I would not be who I am today without Hilary. In the simplest terms, her influence pushed me to explore further and to try harder. There’s no better example than that we would never have gone to Jerusalem last December if she and her family had not chosen to live there for a year. I watch my children bounce off of each other, their sharp corners gouging into each other and their arms providing comfort when it is needed, and I think of Hilary. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
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