My younger brothers are here. They’re downstairs, right now, in that comatose, sweaty state they call sleeping. And they smell and seem too big and ungainly and make lots of noise and have an immense amount of hair, but still: I feel more myself with them in the house. Or rather, I reconnect with a self I don’t often occupy these days. I think Jane Mersky Leder expressed it best:
Our siblings push buttons that cast us in roles we felt sure we had let go of long ago – the baby, the peacekeeper, the caretaker, the avoider…. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has elapsed or how far we’ve travelled.
Very true. Fifty-one weeks of my year are without family. And I love my life, don’t get me wrong (why do so many grown-ups go around looking so miserable when married adulthood is so much fun?); I just feel somewhat loose and untethered with brothers and sister on a different continent. I only notice when they come back, one golden week a year. It’s like I take a deep breath and remember myself in the way they see me. Oh yes, I think. That’s who I am. It doesn’t even really matter how well we get on – we are the same, underneath. We draw from a common pool of childhood memories. We are each other. (Too sentimental? Yes. Concentrating a year’s worth of sibling interaction into seven days makes for heightened appreciation but also mawkishness, I find.)
We’ve had a good week, so far. We’ve visited Oxford museums, gone swimming, raided Topman, eaten lots of food, talked. Harry Potter Day was yesterday, the clear highlight of the week – we went to see the film once Tim arrived home from work, then discussed and analysed every scene from every angle on the way home. My favourite conversation:
James: Doesn’t it make you wish there were more than seven books?
Rob: Doesn’t it make you wish it was real?!
James: (flatly) No. If it was real, you’d be a Muggle.
Rob: (rises at once to the bait) No I wouldn’t.
James: Yes you would. You think you’d get a letter at seventeen, inviting you to Hogwarts? It’s too late for you. You’d be a Muggle. You just don’t understand how it works, Rob.
Rob: You just don’t understand the magic of the Harry Potter series.
This is an in-joke at James’ expense (a line from a film review he wrote aged nine), so we all laugh and he growls, threateningly. A pause.
Tim: Rob, if it were real, you’d be a house elf. (The back seat erupts in outrage.)