Brothers and Sisters

One of the first things children ask each other when they meet is “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”

The sibling relationship (or lack thereof) is one of the most significant in our lives. I was curious to see if any of the Miss Demeanors would be willing to share some of their “origin” stories, and OH BOY. Strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy (or not) ride.

I also want to thank the Misses for being so open, forthright, funny, and bittersweet. I’m very happy to be getting to know them and I hope you will enjoy these little insights into our, erm…, psyches.

Keenan Powell

I was the oldest, or so I thought. I grew up with one younger sister. When I was four, a young nun came from somewhere far away to visit and stayed with us for a few days. I was told she was a friend of the family. When I was six, we went to visit another young woman, her husband, and two little children. The nun was no longer a nun and she was living with them at the time. They were sisters. My dad doted on the two little kids, to the exclusion of me and my sister who felt like there was no place for us there. When I asked my mother why they kept calling him “grandpa,” she said it was a term of endearment.

When was nine or ten, I took to snooping and found my father’s will in which he had listed all of his children including the nun, her sister, and another daughter who I never heard of. Later I learned from my mother that my father had been married twice before. The nun and her sister were from the first marriage. The third daughter was from the second marriage and had been disowned because of her wildness. Then there was us.

Until last year when DNA matched us up with a sixth sister who had been given up for adoption because our father was not married to her mother. Four of us, including the newest sister, have a zoom meeting biweekly. We far more alike than different. We laugh a lot.

So I’m not the oldest anymore. I’m the fifth of six daughters. It’s weird at 65 years old being thought of as “one of the girls.”

And yes, its all over my writing. Hell and High Water, my third book, is all about siblings. The current work in progress is too.

Tracee de Hahn

I’m the oldest of three girls. The second sister arrived a month before I turned five and I was thrilled! I called her Rosebud (and then promptly forgot about her). We were separate enough in age that we didn’t compete for anything, although there are memories of minor annoyance, especially when she was old enough to stop doing everything I asked (as in ‘go fetch….’).

The youngest of the three arrived sixteen years after me. At another moment in life when I was thrilled and then promptly forget about her. This is to my mother’s credit, I suppose, since I remember sitting for “the baby” only once.  There may have been a reason it was only once. On that one day, my best friend came over and it started as a quiet afternoon until a bird flew down a chimney. A very, very large crow. It soared into the kitchen where my sister, the innocent baby, was in her playpen. My friend and I panicked and opened the sliding glass doors to wave it into the wild. Now, it was February and bitter cold and the frames of the ancient heavy sliding glass doors had shrunk. When we pulled them open, they popped out of the track and slid down the steps onto the brick patio. (In my mind it is all still slow motion. The horrible thunk thunk thunk.) This left a six by eight gap in the wall and frigid air blasted into the house, the bird was fascinated by the baby, and there were no cell phones to call for help. I don’t remember ever baby sitting again. 

The three of us were of such different ages that we were almost two to three families depending on who was home. It is now, later in life, that we have grown closer. Probably because my parents are wonderful people and we have continued to gather in their home, forming adult memories. 

Michele Dorsey

I am tempted to pass on this question, but it seems silly to dodge at this point in my life. I am the oldest of four children. The third child, a son, died at the age of one, which had a profound effect on my family, not that there weren’t other dysfunctions in place already. Mental illness affected another of my siblings. I have a relationship with my sister, who lives in another state. She is almost eight years younger than me, so our time together growing up was short.

When I was a kid, we summered in a town (where I later raised my own family) which was known as the Irish Riviera where people from the greater Boston area flocked each summer. They arrived in station wagons jammed with at least six kids and a dog. They were boisterous and seemed to be having a lot of fun. I wanted to be in one of those station wagons, growing up in one of those families, in the worst way. You can feel like an only child, even in a family with four kids. 

File this under a writer’s truth can be bleak. And pass along the Jameson, please.

Connie Berry

I am an only child, born to older parents (36 and 42). My parents married at an older age and would have loved to have other children, but it couldn’t happen. Fortunately I was raised with lots of cousins. One cousin in particular always went along with us on family trips, so we were almost like sisters. We’re still very close even though she lives in Sweden, and I don’t see her as often as I would like.

One thing I remember about being an “only” was the comment people made about only children being spoiled. I really resented that and still do. Being spoiled has to do with how your parents raised you, not about your birth order or number of siblings. I had wonderful parents who never pressured me, loved me unconditionally, and let me have a lot of freedom. One time my mother told me that only children are less selfish than those who have siblings because they never had to fight for things—with the result that they share more readily. Now, is that true or was that my mother trying to encourage me?

I always wanted a brother or sister. As a small child I was known to announce publicly that “my mommy has a baby in her tummy.” That must have been hard for her—embarrassing and painful because she knew she couldn’t bear any more children. Yes, I was a handful.

As an adult, I’ve also wished for siblings, but I still have my “sister” in Sweden.

Emilya Naymark

I’m an only child, born late to middle-aged parents. As a result, my characters are very, very, very lonely people! Not that I’m lonely, and I don’t necessarily see them as lonely, but often readers remark on how alone the characters are. Even if they have siblings, the siblings are usually dead or the relationships are not those of friends but caretakers at best and downright hostile at worst. In other words, I need to work on writing a character with a close, rewarding, and loving relationship with a living sibling. That will be my next challenge

Alexia Gordon

Hmm, I’m sensing a trend here…I am an only child born to parents in their 30s–34 and 38. I love being an only child. I feel it makes me a bit different (at least it did until I discovered how many other Missdemeanors were also only children, LOL). And I admit to not feeling “cheated” by not having to share a bedroom, wear hand-me-downs, or navigate sibling rivalries. No teacher ever compared me to a sibling who’d been in their class in a prior year. And I enjoyed a quiet home life free from sibling arguments. No one was ever touching me or sitting on my side or getting more than me.

I grew up with cousins close to my age. As much as I love them, holidays spent listening to boy fights (verbal only, fortunately) made me feel lucky to not have to deal with that. (BTW, all of my cousins grew up to be well-adjusted, high-achieving, respected community members. The fights were normal sibling stuff. I was happy to miss out on “normal.”) My mother and her sister are incredibly close as adults (not sure how they were as girls growing up sharing a small space) and they talk to each other on the phone nearly every day. I’m not sad to not have this kind of relationship, however. I enjoy my independence and revel in solitude. Most importantly, I learned to enjoy my own company. I can entertain myself so I don’t need others for mental or emotional stimulation. I don’t fear being alone–a trait that served me well in coping with the recent shutdown. Staying home by myself, honestly, was no different from any random Tuesday ( or Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, or…you get the idea).

If someone says I must have been spoiled growing up, I figure they’re just jealous. If by “spoiled” they mean my parents made sacrifices of time, energy, and finance to ensure I had opportunities to achieve in life, then yes, I was spoiled. I also had my parents’ high expectations (giving less than my best effort really wasn’t an option) and their over-protectiveness. When you’re the only kid, it’s much easier for Mom and Dad to keep track of your every move. (I hated this when I was growing up. Now that I’m old enough to understand that over-permissiveness is not a kindness–and to have seen all of the true crimes that involve kids whose parents have no clue what they’re doing–I appreciate it.)

How does being an only child affect my characters? My protagonists tend to be independent problem-solvers. They don’t wait for someone to figure things out for them, they dive in and try to fix things themselves. Their emotional well-being is not dependent on other characters. Gethsemane Brown has siblings, but they’re on a different continent. They make guest appearances but I don’t have to sustain the dynamics of a sibling relationship throughout an entire novel. I think I’d be exhausted if I did. I love characters who are stoic loners but this type would be an anomaly in my subgenre so I make an effort to create relationships. I dislike characters who are needy or co-dependent and won’t create a protagonist who can’t take care of herself. I have compromised with the family-focused conventions of my subgenre by making my protagonist’s independence an explicit source of tension or conflict within the story. 

Susan Breen

I have one brother, two years younger, and I’m very close to him. We navigated a difficult childhood together because one or the other of my parents was always in the hospital. We’re very different. He’s outgoing, athletic, loves being the center of attention. I am none of those things, though I do like to tell stories. I think of him as my anchor. I have not, however, ever given one of my characters a brother. Not sure why

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2 thoughts on “Brothers and Sisters

  1. Wow. I can relate to a few of you in the sibling department. I’m the 6th of 8 and my best friend (still friends today) was an only child. She loved hanging our and watching the family dynamics while I hated the hand-me-downs, chores, and one older sister making me do everything for her–including homework. Maybe that’s why I’m such a fighter. I don’t back down, but stand my ground and hang in there for “the good fight.”

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