This is really about sisters and brothers and the place they hold in our hearts and our lives.
We get to choose our friends and the man or woman we marry and have children with, but our sisters and brothers we acquire on the luck of the draw by birth. We grow up squabbling over turf and parental approval, teasing and being teased. One day rivals, the next day allies. Most of us can remember times when our siblings were the only friends we had, hanging together on vacations or weathering a stormy day in the shelter of a fort built with chairs and blankets.
But then we grow up. We go off to college, or into the workforce. We move away, or join the military and move all the time. Our interests pull us even further apart and we get busy raising our own children. Too often, we forget to take time to keep the relationships of our childhoods alive and vibrant and healthy. But this past week, I was reminded how truly precious and beautiful time spent with our brothers and sisters all grown up can be.
When I first moved to my little island, there was a lovely woman who invited me to join her for various little impromptu get-togethers. Sadly, she passed away last year and in the days and weeks that followed, I got to meet most of her children who came to deal with all the stuff that a death in the family brings. They had a gathering to honor their mom, of course, and I saw them often while we chatted over my fence about the mundane and the unusual in settling the estate. Eventually the decision was made to sell their mom’s house, and as each of them left for the last time (or so I thought) we said goodbye and wished each other well.
But last week, they all showed up (or most of them anyway.) They were staying at a neighbor’s place and had rented another small cottage to make room for them all. I was invited to a casual party when they first arrived, but the thing that made me smile the most and remember again, just how wonderful good sibling relationships can be, was their habit of walking down each night to say goodnight to the ocean. Usually with a glass of wine in hand, and generally long enough after the sun had set for darkness to have fallen, I’d hear the cheerful chatter of the small group as they passed by my house. They always gathered at the seawall, a close little cluster of shadows against the backdrop of the nighttime ocean, and the murmur of comfortable conversation drifted softly in the warm evening air, punctuated by chuckles and laughter.
They were lucky to have a perfect week weather-wise, but even luckier, I think, to have that week together. They make time for each other, and that makes their lives so much richer. Now they’ve returned to their scattered homes and no happy little group passed by last night, so I walked down the seawall by myself and said goodnight to the ocean for them. And while I was there, I whispered goodnight to my own brother and sister. And thanked God that my grown-up children still make time to be together, and know the joy of a companionship that will last for a lifetime.