Never Lonely With Siblings

“My house is so quiet compared to yours,” a neighbor girl said to me on a visit to my childhood home when we were in grade school. She didn’t quite know what to make of it all – the noisy brothers, the dog howling as the baby cried in the playpen or the constant slamming of the screen door. Funny, I didn’t notice a thing out of the ordinary.

My friend found our home a welcome respite from the silence she experienced being an only child. She enjoyed the mayhem at my house while I couldn’t wait to spend an overnight at hers. She didn’t have to share anything with anyone other than her parents. Her bedroom had only one bed – with a canopy yet. It was fit for a princess.

She loved sitting on our front porch steps among my assorted younger siblings while we ate twin pops and rinsed away the stickiness with the garden hose. I think she enjoyed her time with us because we always made room for one more at the crowded dinner table.

I grew up with two, sometimes three beds in one bedroom that was shared with various siblings. There were bunk beds in other rooms, single beds and a crib in another. Only our parents and the oldest two siblings had their own rooms. We all shared two bathrooms where the mirrors were always steamed over.

My friend’s dining room had fancy, upholstered chairs unlike the wooden benches and picnic tables that served as my family’s dinner table. And when she sat down to a meal, she didn’t have to fight for the last piece of bread and butter. There were even second helpings offered at her table.

As curious as my upbringing was to my friend, hers was even more fascinating to me. It was only when we were older that I realized how blessed I am to have so many siblings.

When you have brothers and sisters you never have to look far for a best friend or a shoulder to cry on. And when one is in need, we all are there.

At the newspaper, I worked with a surprising number of people who were only children.

They could only look at me with that puzzled look on their faces when I shared stories of my childhood. I started recounting my only-child coworkers – Mike, Linda, Casey, Joselyn, Ian … the list kept growing over the years. I have learned from each of them, as they are unique and interesting.

I loved hearing their stories of growing up with cousins and extended families and I often shared my memories of chaotic Christmases and the birthday candles that rarely grew cold.

I could not imagine not having a big sister to scare away imaginary monsters under the bed or brothers who kept bullies at bay on our walk home from school.

During this pandemic, I sometimes feel like we are all children waiting at the front door for someone to come over and play. It’s been lonely and trying for many of us yearning to put arms around one another. But I know that with vaccines on the horizon, there will be hugs all around in our future. Family or not, be prepared.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.


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