One Sister, Two BrothersBy Rebecca Kendall
any siblings grow up to be either very close or completely estranged. My brothers and I are neither. We tend to lead separate lives until something happens in the family to bring us together. More like cousins than siblings perhaps. But it’s okay. We are three very different people, living in three different states, leading three completely different lives. We’ve never had a big fight or legendary disagreement. Whenever we get together we have a pleasant time and wonder why we don’t do it more often.
Yet, it’s curious to me how three kids raised by the same two parents could be so dissimilar. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I know it’s not uncommon, but it still baffles me how one pair of parents can raise: a Liberal feminist artist, a proud Republican CEO, and an Iraq War veteran who’s currently re-evaluating his political views.
I suspect that we have differing perspectives on our past or even conflicting memories altogether as proven from past discussions. Take, for example, our recollections of family meals. I (the eldest) remember Mom as having a repertoire of about 20 basic dinner “recipes” and rotating them. Some menu plans appeared more frequently than others, but there was never any set schedule. Mom was simply not that organized. The middle child swears that we had the same seven dishes the same nights of the week throughout his childhood. You know, “If it’s Wednesday, it’s Prince Spaghetti night.” The baby asserts that he prepared most evening dinners, insisting, “I would have eaten PB&J’s every night if I hadn’t learned to cook.”
I wondered what else we remembered differently. So I created a questionnaire with a variety of topics ranging from current life philosophy to pivotal moments and favorite memories. I was certain I’d unearth countless distortions of our childhoods (because of course, I remember everything with 100 percent accuracy), which would prove how we came to be adults with such contradictory natures.
Informing my brothers that I was doing research for an article about siblings, I emailed the questionnaire to them and they were totally into it. We filled it out and didn’t read each other’s responses until they all were completed.
What I discovered surprised me. Our memories were not in conflict at all. As a matter of fact, my brothers both remembered a few truly wonderful things that over the years I’d completely forgotten about. For example, every Christmas this little ceramic “skunk pot” ashtray would pass back and forth between my parents and grandparents. The idea was to catch the recipient off-guard so they wouldn’t be aware that they were opening the “pot,” so there was always some silly or sentimental gimmick involved. It was a highlight of the holiday. How could I have forgotten about that? Or one night when our grandfather kept droning over and over, “An egg is an egg.” Behind our grandfather’s back, my brothers and I were in absolute hysterics. Okay…maybe you had to be there. But I’m telling you, it was hi-LAR-ious!
All three questionnaires revealed that numerous events were remembered alike. For instance, of all the holidays, trips, and special events in a year, we agreed that Christmas Eve was the best, preferring it even to Christmas Day. We all remember having breakfast with Dad while Mom slept in…every day. We recalled Mom’s willingness to hand over her last 20 bucks and always being up for a game of cards. We acknowledged and have great respect for Dad’s incredible work ethic.
My point is, my brothers’ sharp recollections shot holes all through my grand theory.
While it was fun to take a trip down memory lane with my brothers, I was frustrated that I couldn’t uncover any evidence revealing what had occurred to make us all so different. I finally concluded that the secret had to lie in our responses to the question, “In a nutshell, what is your life philosophy?”
The Feminist Artist answered, “Believe in your dreams, trust your gut, pursue goals with gusto, take pride in your successes, and learn from your losses/failures.”
The CEO’s philosophy was, “Work hard, be disciplined, keep a positive outlook, find and return love, do the right thing even if it isn’t the easy thing.”
And the Veteran’s take on life was clearly influenced by his recent experiences. “Cherish what you have, don’t stress about what you don’t, stay focused and good things will happen, try to live everyday as full as you can, ‘cause tomorrow it could be gone.”
I studied those responses for some time, searching for the genesis of our individuality, when I noticed that combined, the message was one of strength and unity:
Believe in your dreams
Keep a positive outlook
Cherish what you have
Pursue goals with gusto
Trust your gut
And good things will happen.
Take pride in your successes
Find and return love
Live everyday as full as you can,
‘Cause tomorrow it could be gone