I scroll through my photos feed on IG and on impulse feel the need to upload one. Browsing through the pictures on my phone, I pause, move and come back to one picture. My sister is looking away in this one, her posture is relaxed, she is focused on brushing my daughter’s hair. Laddu is looking straight ahead, her face relaxed, knowing she is in capable hands. There is something about this picture that encapsulates everything I want my relationship with my siblings to be.
For years I have envied my sister in law being able to talk to her brother for hours over the phone. I see cousins of my husband, sisters, take off on trips with their daughters. Their beaming pictures, the drape of the hand over the shoulder, the possessive nature of certain poses, those pictures have me stop, linger and commit to memory, aspirations and sibling goals.
All of last week my siblings and their children and mine all of us spent a lot of time together. We cooked, watched our kids together, took them to the zoo, wandered the streets at a local block party and ate funnel cake. We stood in circles, surrounded by inflatable dolphins, random cloth bags, marketing swag from local vendors under the rapidly dimming sunlight and yet to be bright street lamps.
My sister and I walked along the sidewalk, our shoulders grazing on occasion as we swapped life stories and parenting fails. I pointed out neighbors homes and people I mention during the rare phone conversations. She talked about how little she knew the people who lived around her. In the simple, mundane moments I realized I had the connection I craved.
Siblings are like alternate universes, paths that our lives could have taken given we share the same gene pool. My nieces and nephews are versions of my children, traits and personalities tweaked to yield different results. I sat in silence amid the chaos in wonderment, reveling in the miracle that is all of my family gathered around me.
I watched as my sister ate, her long fingers delicately tearing the crisp dosai, looking dainty as she nibbled on it. I watched as my niece sat next to Laddu drinking her milk through a straw as mine dunked half her face into her cup and looked up with an impressive milk mustache. I watched Ammu, Pattu and Laddu clamor to sleep with their cousin each night. I soaked in each moment I spent with my sister roaming the aisles of the local box store looking for the perfect dress for our niece who celebrates her birthday today.
As I dropped the two of them at the office where Saathi would them ferry them to the airport, I fussed with my niece, hugging, tucking her in the seat and promising we would meet again, soon. I turned to see my sister behind me, in anticipation of that hug. We hugged, long and hard, the scent of sandal talc enveloping me along with all of the love her arms could hold. I let go, reluctantly, knowing it would be awhile before we got this kind of time together.