The Sibling

GELLERS

The other day, my brother sent me a picture which read: ‘You haven’t had a childhood unless you’ve jumped from one sofa to the other to avoid the lava.’ I had a chuckle to myself and then a thought dawned on me: what would it be like to be an only child?

What would I do without that someone I can share childhood memories with? And what would I do without someone on this planet who understands how utterly insane our parents actually are? Who else would’ve embarrassed me in front of my teenage boyfriends or told me, when no one else would, that I needed to lose a few pounds? Who else would have watched All Dogs Go To Heaven with me on repeat, followed up by The Land Before Time, every single day for about eight years?

Only a sibling, of course.

When I look back on the past 25 years, many of my favourite memories include my brother. That trip to Disney Land (during his fat-phase) where he drank the bottomless drinks dry, that time he stunk out the mini van with his old trainers, that time he almost choked to death and I was laughing too much to call an ambulance and that time he came to visit me at university and… ahem… got on really well with my house-mate. Oh the joys (and double standards) of siblinghood.

As I’m sure we all could, I could regale you for hours with tales of our childhood, teenage years and even our twenties. In fact, the time he called me at 3am when he tried to escape the wrath of a one night stand but set the burglar alarm off is worth a mention- but aside from that one story it would be pointless to share the rest as they just wouldn’t be as funny to you as they are to us. Besides, you have no idea who Granny Helen is-or Gizmo for that matter. And Leysdown and Westgate probably just sound like made up words to you. Never would anyone else have shed an actual tear on my graduation day and never will anybody understand the utter heartache we went through in 2006 better than him.

So, my dear big brother, you’re off on a brand new adventure, half way across the world right now, and this time: it’s without me. Have a blast, but more importantly: look after yourself.

Even though you annoy me more than words can say and you cut all of my hair off the day before my second birthday party, I would still like you back in one piece. With a panama hat stored safely away for me in your rucksack.

Happy travels you petulant human.

The Family

When Harper Lee wrote that “you can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family”, she was, well, pretty much correct.

From school to university to the office, I’m sure you’ll all agree that friends have come and gone, and while the precious few will still be hanging around eating chips with you on Tottenham Court Road at 4am, you can only truly rely on your family one hundred percent.

Why then, do we find them so unbelievably embarrassing? Taboo almost?

My household appear happy. I’ve heard people say countless times that we are the perfect family. And although generally quite content, this makes us laugh to a great extent. My dad and I clash over TV timetables, my brother thinks it’s fine that he hasn’t lifted a duster in 25 years and my parents bicker over old people things such as who is making the next cup of tea and who ate the last bit of cheese. This is the “normal” stuff that I’d admit to, of course. The rest of it will be shoved firmly in the vault under the stairs that we have willingly thrown away the key for.

Hopefully you aren’t now questioning whether my dad is a spy and me a drug baron. Instead, I hope that you are nodding in at least partial agreement, much like during that blessed moment in the best of friendships where you are sitting there at two in the morning, sipping on leftover wine from dinner, when someone confides in the group that something is not quite right at home. And then the floodgates open. Not pathetic tears of a clown caused by too much Pinot Grigio, more like a lot of talking. Be it money troubles, divorce, affairs, drugs and even just a petit argument, everyone begins to nod their head in appreciation and knowing because something very similar has, or is, happening to them.

And if they aren’t, they’re lying.

So why do we find it so easy to gossip about our friends sleeping with the enemy and the awkward moment between “Sarah” and “Jim” at the pub last week? Because we are not directly linked to them of course and it’s therefore no reflection on us as their companion. Contrary to this view of our friend’s stupidity, people consider their family to be some sort of mirror-image of them. And one that we should hide should it be a little cracked.

A friend of mine’s family are channelling The Carpenter’s and have set up a band together, another’s mum once force-fed me home-made peach schnapps at three in the afternoon and another’s grandma once wore a hat made solely of faux-penises to a “P” party. If they were my relatives, I’d be mortified. (If you’ve met my mother you’d know that’s a complete and utter lie). But it’s only as I get older that I’ve begun to realise that embarrassing family members make a four-hour-long christening that little bit more exciting and Christmas Day so eventful.

So if you’re worried about your boyfriend meeting your great aunt dotty who is never to be seen without a glass (bottle) of gin, just remember that you probably ‘ain’t seen nothing yet.

Wait until you meet his half-uncle Richard, he’s a treat.