I am the youngest of three children and we are theoretically three only children when it comes to the years separating us. It felt as if my brother (the eldest) and my sister (the middlest) were strangers to me when I was a child. We had nothing in common with one another except for our dysfunctional parents, and even that there was a striking difference between them and me — they knew a life Before and I only knew it After. In my sorting out years, those years of adolescence when a person thinks she is figuring things out, I envied them because of this because they knew what it was like to have happy parents. Through my youngish twenties when a person things she is approaching wisdom, I felt something resembling pity because I thought perhaps they knew what was lost. Now that I am approaching forty and understand that each decade brings a new layer of cluelessness along with it, I have long since learned that all three of us are equal parts messed up for all sorts of different reasons. It is a miracle we are not drunks and that we can lead functional lives.
As adults we have formed friendships where we only had loosely swinging branches on the same family tree when we were younger. I rely on my brother and sister perhaps more than they rely on me, but I suppose that comes with being the youngest. I love them for the strength they provide me, most often when they don’t realize they are giving it.
Throughout high school the only thing that really connected me to my brother and sister was our last name. This was either a blessing or curse depending on the teacher or sibling. If I saw a raised eyebrow during attendance on the first day of school, trepidation flashed across my face at the same moment when the teacher made the connection between me and my brother. It might have been worse if the eyes lit up and I was asked if I were my sister’s sister. A bar being set firmly into place to either be a low or high achiever based on a sibling’s reputation is akin to a death knoll in high school.
I look more like my brother, with our shared dark hair and olive skin. We have the same sense of humor and impulse to spite our dad. He is more outgoing than I am, though, and was more natural at making friends than I ever was. We share the same curiosity in learning new things and loyalty. My sister and I look nothing alike, so we’ve been told constantly. I think our personalities have become more similar as we have aged, though we were quite different when we were younger. My sister would tell me I was “always old, always serious”. I remember my sister as always being lively, full of spirit, eyes sparkly. She is far more fair-skinned than either my brother or myself, though she has the dark hair and eyes. I always thought of my sister as being “the most of” anything — the most beautiful, smart, talented — and my mother reminded me repeatedly that my sister was my measuring stick. I don’t recall feeling resentful of this, though.
The one thing my sister and I share, almost identically, though, is our voices. People struggle in telling us apart. My brother and I have a laugh that will sound the same. I love this. I love how no matter all the differences that we might have, the years that separate us, what pulls us together is our voices.
They’re individual voices tell their own stories. My brother’s voice is a rich deep voice that will comfort and advise me when I need it most. It will calm my spirit in devoted prayer and blessing that, I confess, I have more faith in than anything else. His voice will make me laugh when he tells the best stories and we will reminisce and share adventures. My sister’s voice, my voice, will confide frustrations and worries so similar to my own that I won’t feel alone anymore. It will provide me with a Middle C when mine will go off tune and begin to shake. And even when we disagree, this is the voice that provides the shadow to my own, giving me the other side of the coin.
Oftentimes I feel like my voice is the only one speaking. To be truthful, this isn’t always bad. It has been a positive thing for me to be on my own, to find my own voice’s pattern and tone, to hear it echo against the walls. But if I were to be truly truthful, I haven’t always invited my brother and sister to speak with me. I have too often assumed I knew what they would say which isn’t fair of me. Different voices don’t always mean discordance.
Besides, there really are more important things to do with my voice aren’t there?