Sunday, 31 January 2010


I am the oldest child.

As such I am the one with the longest memory and an unrelenting belief in my authority in all matters.

They put up with it (kinda).
We are not the closest of families. We don't have the need to call one another every day or even every week. That doesn't mean we don't love the crap out of each other. We are all fiercely independant, stubborn and loud. And as you can see from the above photo, we are all blessed (or cursed) with cheesy grins...five finger foreheads, pale skin and really small mouths. We still haven't been able to take a decent photo together despite the 24 years we've all been alive together.

I love my siblings. Not because I have to, but because they are pretty awesome human beings. We don't fight but we do squabble and get pissy with one another. It happens very rarely, often in the company of a parent and is often over in a millisecond. We show our affection by taking the piss out of one another, or ganging up on our mother and teasing her.

Erin is this passionate, focused, ambitious woman. She's the middle child but in some many ways she's the head of the Walsh kid arrow. She's our direction and our goal. She's organised and responsible to a degree that has forgone Rory and myself. She's the strongest person I know as well as being incredible sensitive and caring to others.

She's always looking ahead, scoping out her options with pragmatic fortitude and ease. Despite being a handful of years older than her, I've always been jealous. She's always been so much sure of herself and others than I could ever hope to be.

When I was in year seven and she was in year three, I was having an exceptionally hard time with some girls in my class. Erin took it upon herself to trudge up the ringleader of that whole debacle and told her in no uncertain terms that she should leave her sister alone. And that's Erin in a nutshell, she's ballsy, strong and fiercely protective. She's going to be a lioness of a mother in the future (I'll be the flighty, slightly neurotic aunt.)

She's also charismatic and silly. She's completely unpredictable. I used to think she was bulletproof!

Growing up we weren't necessarily close. We didn't hate one another or fight all that much but we just didn't mesh. I think sisters are most often like that during their childhoods, I tend to think the whole bosom buddies / close sister thing is a fallacy. I was an only child before Erin was born. When she came along it was like my world opened up. Someone of my very own. My sister.

It was hard seeing Erin grow up because she was everyone else's then. Not just mine. Then of course she had to be smarter than me and better at sports and generally better at everything. Maths included. She can even successfully pull off the blond look, me - not so much. But she was called Adele for an entire year of school and I am sure being the second Walsh kid had it's own issues. And if there's anything I have over Erin (and goodness knows I have been thinking about it for awhile now), it's that I am four inches taller.

In many ways I think I let her down, I wasn't as protective of her as I should have been. I left her (and Rory) for boarding school. For me it was a blessed escape from other things but I always felt tremendous guilt that everything fell upon Erin after I left, and probably before that too. She's always been brave. She plans and she plots but she commits. I've always talked about travelling since I could talk but it was my little sister who got her passport and travelled many years before I did. It might have only been to Bali but she did it.

Rory is in many ways the typical youngest. He's impish and a tad on the naughty side. He's smarter than both his sisters - scarily so, just without the ambition. I also think people respond to him more than Erin or myself.

He's a funny bastard when he's not being shy and all his friends would say he's full of random stories of hilarity. He's a showman in the grand tradition of the men from my mother's side of the family. Men with an appetite for a good beer, a good stories and a nice bite to eat. Give them a moment of silence and it's an opening for a story, a joke or some whip smart observation. He's that guy that will have you pinned within a couple of minutes of meeting you.

We are all tremendously analytical, Rory just doesn't vocalise it much. My mother, Erin and I will talk about a situation for days. I think we all appreciate his brevity. Though having been told to "shut up" his entire life by two domineering sisters before he even cracked his mouth open probably helped in his ability to be concise. Despite his smarts, he's not a school person. He doesn't like studying and I am sure this has been made all the harder as his sister both have masters degrees. But he definitely has his own sphere of influence and he just needs to find a way to have confidence in it!

He's always been quiet and not much of a talker. For the entirety of his teen years and the early part of his twenties, he communicated in nods and the occasional huff or syllable. But he's such a great storyteller and entertainer that it's sad that people outside his family or circle don't tend to see it.

We've always connected on an interest level. He's into movies just as much as I am. He doesn't read...hardly that's where we are complete opposites. He's got the largest collection of horror movies that I know of, I collect girlie stuff. For three Christmases in a row, he and I would drive into the city from our country town and see Lord of the Rings on Boxing Day. It would be my gift - a ticket, a ride and food - perfect for the uni student I was and the high school student he was. My favourite part was always the drive home when he would talk about the movies and that would flow onto other more important things. Rory and I always have our best talks in the car.

He's a caring soul too, though he'd rather die than admit that he cares. When I went to boarding school he would tape Buffy episodes for me and wait for my return every couple of months to watch them together. He's a catch, I just need to find him a girl....takers?

In the last two years I have gotten to know my siblings much better as adults. I learned that I LOVE spending the afternoon with Erin, whether shopping or watching The Hills on the couch. That she's great in telling me to suck it up, shut it down or rethink something. She's an unfiltered bs-ing device that I sorely need. She's also a great hugger. We've lived together for the past sixteen months and having been in Japan the past three weeks, I realise just how much she's become a central part of my life as a sister but as a friend too. I miss her enormously.

And Rory, well I've had the pleasure of speaking to him via webcam on a few occasions. He's cracked me up with his tales and asked me questions that tend to reveal the truth of how I am coping without going into melancholy. He can cheer me up in five minutes. I even got my first email from him last week. It meant a lot.

(Picture right - This is what happens to your face when a photo is taken as you are snickering at a naughty comment. My brother's very pleased and kinda smarmy expression gives you a hint at how naughty the comment was.)

Some of you know that I was sick at the end of last year. Truth was, I was sick for most of the second half of 2009. Rory knew it was bad earlier on before I probably realised myself and Erin was definitely aware. It is unfortunate that being sick is when you realise how truly awesome family is. Rory accompanied me to the hospital for testing despite being bored out of his brain and not even being in my presence most of the time. Erin looked after me at home, buying foods that I would try and keep down. Both came to the hospital several times to see how I was. I felt very lucky.

Leaving wasn't all that hard. I wasn't emotional, I wasn't thinking about Japan as the end of my life in Adelaide. It just was what it was. The fact that I was so pragmatic about it stressed me out more than the actual leaving. But there were two times where I felt myself slip. The first was saying goodbye to Rory the night before. He hugged me longer than normal and said he would miss me - fighting words from my bub. The second was on the phone at the airport. Erin had to work and had had to say goodbye in the morning before she left. She had rung my mum at the airport so she could say goodbye before I got on the plane. She kept apologising for not being there and sounded really sad and it nearly got me. She's my lil sis.

Now some of you are probably wondering what the heck this has to do with YA. Not much really, I was missing my siblings and I wanted to share how cool they are. But in this post I have realised how very few YA books have sketched sibling relationships on a deeper level. Siblings are usually the annoying part of the novel that pops up, or the antagonists or the dead one that the protagonist has to grieve for properly. Very rarely in there a focus on the intricacies of the sibling dynamic without being extreme.

Maybe I am being nostalgic, maybe I am being a sad sack but siblings are pretty awesome the majority of the time. It's like that idea - I can say whatever i want about my family but if you say something, I will claw your eyes out. Blood is thicker than water and I miss my blood!

Any suggestions for real, focused representations of siblings in YA?


Alea said...

This was perfect. :D

kate.o.d said...

sarah dessen's just listen
when dogs cry by markus zusak
a charm of powerful trouble, joanne horniman
catcher in the rye (holden loves phoebe so much, he can tell her things he can't tell anyone else)

these have great sibling storylines. but i guess that it doesn't form the "main storyline" often.

(that was harder than i thought)

Karen Mahoney said...

This made me tear up. Awesome post, Adele. Also, loved your post on the other blog (your night out!) - I can't comment there with Firefox, for some reason. It's happening a lot with blogs since Firefox upgrade. *sigh* So that's why I always post here.

But back to the post. Your brother and sister sound like amazing people - the three of you together must be formidable. :) I have one older brother and we are very close. I don't see him much right now, and we don't even talk all that regularly, but when se DO get together... the love is most definitely there. He's one of my favourite people in the world.

Thanks for sharing this.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! I wonder if you're right about close sisters/bosom buddies being rare. I only really know my own experience! I am very close with my sisters, particularly my younger one - when we are living in the same town, we become eerily similar and say things at the same time and finish each other's sentences and refer to ourselves in the first person plural ("We love Mexican! But we don't like black beans.").

Just Your Typical Book Blog said...

Great post. I completely understand the 'I can say whatever I want about my family but anyone else - better watch themselves' lol

The first book that popped into mind was Dreamland by Sarah Dessen.

Kathy Charles said...

It's not strictly YA, but the first novel that popped into my head was "To Kill A Mockingbird", and the relationship between Jen and Scout.

Beautiful post.

Jordyn said...

The novels I write!!! (Now if only I could get them published....)

Seriously though, Hannah Moskowitz's BREAK, the SUITE SCARLETT series by Maureen Johnson, anything by Sarah Dessen (as you well know), THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO TELL YOU by Heather Duffy-Stone.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post Adele. I can relate most to Erin b/c I'm the middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. I loved this post!

Angiegirl said...

Most recently the relationship between Nick and Alan in THE DEMON'S LEXICON comes to mind. The depiction of those brothers killed me.

And then, of course, Dicey and her three siblings in Cynthia Voigt's Tillerman books. I never tire of reading about them and the intricate dynamics going on. Probably because I'm an only child, but I find siblings fascinating.

Others I can think of include the Murrys in A WRINKLE IN TIME and Ellen and Link from MY HEARTBEAT by Garret Freymann-Weyr.

Super post, Adele. I so enjoyed reading it.

Unknown said...

I love this post and hearing about your family, and I would venture to guess that you will just become closer and closer as you age (wait till you get as old as I am! ;-). I think the photos of you are lovely, and you clearly complement each other in more ways than you may even yet know. Good for you for writing this all out. Sounds like you've got another idea for a novel in the making. XO