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Monday, May 20, 2024

Column: Concerning Siblings

On Monday I found myself jamming to “Pomp and Circumstance” on repeat as I eagerly anticipated the arrival of my older sister in a queue of gown-wearing, accomplished undergraduates.

When the time came for my sister to take her monumental glide across stage, I found myself peering at my fellow last-name-sharing audience members.

My younger brother had his hand on his chin, eyes focused with incomparable intent on our graduate. I then turned my gaze to my eldest sister, sitting in the row in front of me, her eyes replaced with the lens of a camera, anticipation gleaming across her face.

Four is one of my favorite numbers. Besides being the number of eyes I have when I wear my stylish glasses, it’s the digit that has followed my siblings and me since the last of us was born.

It’s events like graduations that shine a spotlight (or multiple) on family dynamics. We believe in these expressions of fellowship, opportunities for applause and reminders of bondage. We believe in camaraderie.

I find the word “friend” to be extremely problematic. When we were kids, we had more friends than an elephant could remember. But now that I’m a full-fledged college student, I find it rather challenging to reduce all my relationships to “friend.” There are my “roommates,” “coworkers,” “friends from home,” “summer camp staff members,” “Davis friends,” “cousins,” “parents” and “siblings.”

With this complexity of bondage, I’m never sure if my siblings are just my siblings, or if they’re my friends just like my friends from camp or class. Sure, most of my “friends” are represented on Facebook, but not all of them could have understood what it meant to see my sister whip her tassel back and forth. Not all of them could feel the excitement that can erupt from a 24-hour re-enactment of summer memories. And it’s not their fault. We just appear to lack enough words to describe them.

When I met Annemarie Stone, a UC Davis sophomore English major, I immediately loved her ability to bring up her siblings in almost every conversation. Not only does Stone have four other siblings, but she also finds herself asis a middle triplet.

Stone explained that one of the most common questions she’s asked about her tripletness is if it’s “fun.” She admitted that having two other people with the exact same homework assignments as her growing up was a major bonus, but she aptly added that things could get a little less than fun at times. “You try sharing a birthday cake when you’re 2(0).”

On the subject of sibling friendship, Stone’s triplet sister, Claire, shared that “Being a triplet is hard to explain. You have a permanent understanding with two others that no other can ever comprehend. You always have a BFF.”

Stone’s relationships with her siblings are not only fun to hear about, but they also had a role to play in her arrival at our university. In a UC Davis admittance admission essay, Stone wrote: “I have never had my own room. Yet, sharing a room is way better than that one time when I shared a womb for 7 months. Talk about small spaces, am I right? And, just kidding. They weren’t just people; they were my triplet siblings.”

While talking to Stone about her sibling dynamics, all I could think of was “Hey, I shared a room too!” and “I’ve used sibling homework!”

Triplets, sextuplets or not, the camaraderie that exists between siblings is pretty astounding.

We can’t ignore, however, the vast population of people who grew up sibling-less. While I can’t imagine who I would be without my other three, there are plenty of people who don’t share my sentiments.

Some people who have siblings openly wish they didn’t, and some who never had any wonder what it would be like to take on the role of “big sister.” I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the Jack & Jill bathroom.

Needless to say, finding “friendship” in those people we consider siblings, blood related or not, can be a challenge when we are faced with conflicting labels. I’m a little tired of social distinctions that make one friend “best.” Cousins can be brothers. Daughters can be friends. Summer friends can be family. And history majors can be comrades.

Thanks to some “Pomp and Circumstance,” I’ve remembered what it means to have siblings whose importance goes far beyond the identifiers of “friends” or “relatives.” We can create camaraderie wherever we see fit. It can happen as quickly as three hours, or as long as 16 years. In any case, we can’t forget to believe in our relationships. We need them to help us carry that weight.

MAYA MAKKER is interested in rolling with the Stone siblings. Feel free to acknowledge that joke via mgmakker@ucdavis.edu.

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