Siblings, Real and Imagined

I love siblings. Especially this one. She’s the best.

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(The one on the left.)

Siblings are also some of my favorite kinds of people to imagine. When my sister LaRae and I were little, we imagined twelve extra siblings for ourselves. It was one of our longest-running playtime activities. We were two of fourteen orphaned siblings living on the frontier in the mid 1800s, and we spent our time hoeing a little patch of garden and trying our best to cook oatmeal pancakes over a tiny fire in our backyard.

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We knew the names and ages of every one of our imagined brothers and sisters, and of course we gave ourselves new names too. Both LaRae and I even had twins. My name was Emily and I had a twin brother named Isaac, and LaRae’s play name was Sarah and her twin Sally. If my memory serves me rightly, I think we decided that Isaac and I were eleven and LaRae (sorry, Sarah) and Sally were thirteen, which means we were probably a year or two younger than that in real life since, as kids, it’s always nicer to pretend you’re a little older than you really are.

Although LaRae and I have now settled (quite contentedly) into the reality of it being just the two of us, I still love to write siblings into my plays, because the relationship between siblings is so wonderfully unique. It’s the closest relationship I can think of that occurs without either member choosing it, and yet it can be one of the deepest kinds of friendship. You’re stuck together without consent, but you share so much by being brought up in the same environment, by the same family, with the same experiences and memories. Sure, you have different personalities and preferences, but you’ll likely share whatever general weirdness characterizes your family (we all have something, let’s face it). And when siblings learn to really love each other, to live in very close quarters and forgive each other’s wrongs, to embrace the oddities and appreciate the specialties, and to be vulnerable and serve one another, then a deep, extraordinary friendship takes root which (though I speak as a 23-year-old) can last one’s whole life.

I think this is what gives me a special fondness for sibling characters in my dramas. The pair that first comes to my mind is Luke and Bethany Tanner from Christmas at The Three Bees, grown-up siblings who are still close friends and run a business together (while also keeping their dear mother in line). They don’t always start on the same page—like when Bethany freaks out about what kind of cookies she’s going to bake for some guests and Luke has to speak reason into her life—but they usually end up on the same page.

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I think too of the Paternoster brothers, Jay, Chester, and Felix, from The Twelve Months of Christmas. Three retired bachelors who’ve always stuck together, their different personalities balance one another pretty well. Jay, the oldest, tends to take charge, with practical logic and a firm sense of what’s right and wrong, but he’s the least personable of the three brothers. Youngest brother Chester, though shy, is caring and attentive to others, but sometimes his concern for what’s going on around him can almost paralyze him. Felix, the middle brother, is the friendliest and most comfortable with other people, and he helps provide a kind of bridge from the brothers’ threesome to the outside world.

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And lastly I think of the Leclaire siblings from my most recent play, The Nova Theater. Tristan, Camille, and Ramona are young adults full of vision and energy, but they’ve already had more than their fair share of hardship. Ramona, the youngest, suffers from scleroderma, and Camille abandoned her hopes of a great acting career to care for her sister. Meanwhile, Tristan sustains the family with both his work and his cheerful, sensible character. I have to admit, these three might be my favorite siblings I’ve written, simply because they support one another so faithfully, helping bear each other’s burdens.

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Well, there’s some sibling love for you today. I still say mine’s the best. 🙂 Happy National Siblings Day!

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