“You’d better get along with your sisters, girls. It will be the longest relationship of your lives—longer than with your parents, longer than with your spouses, longer than with your own children.” –Joanie (AKA Mom)
Growing up was no walk in the park chez Cunningham. My sisters and I were raised by overgrown children, Joanie and Tom, who meant well, but had zero control over the Monkey House that was our domicile. We girls truly loved each other (and our parents), but at times the impartial observer would be hard-pressed to guess that.
I do remember playing elaborate games of Barbie and Ken with Mo, though, and both of us doted on C, who was several years younger. But then came school, and suddenly there were friends to make, friends who were much more mysterious and glamorous than the kids we shared rooms and bathtubs with. For the remainder of our youth, we jumped when any of our buddies beckoned, leaving our siblings in the dust. We figured there’d be time, later, to nurture that “longest relationship of our lives.” Not then, however.
Mo’s death at age 23 was a massive wake-up call—our little circle was broken, forever. It took a year or so of grieving in our separate ways, but then Carolyn and I found our way back to each other, and a friendship that has sustained me in the 40 years since.
My children similarly began as a very tight-knit crew, but as their lives expanded, those bonds were sometimes strained. Sheridan and Evan in particular were joined at the hip—until they weren’t. They grew to have separate social circles, and their “BFFs” were not one another anymore. As with my family, our five have found their way back to amazing relationships, but I still recall the fallen faces of the younger brother or sister discarded by the older one in favor of his or her fellow third graders.
And here we are with Aiden and Peter. As the pandemic began, the boys has just returned from a visit to their family in Taiwan, and had settled back into kindergarten and preschool. Overnight, the shutdown began, and then it was just the two of them as sole playmates, for months and months. Sheridan and Ya-Jhu homeschooled them, and they didn’t seem to miss being with other children (at the height of the COVID scare, we’d whisk them home if anyone else appeared on the playground).
Fast-forward to Fall 2021, and their impending return to school. They are excited; Nana is a mess. I keep turning tender brotherly moments from the past year over and over in my heart, and I dread the boys’ separation. Deep down I know it’s good for them to socialize again (way deep down). But then there’s a moment like this recent one...
Peter, at almost five, has an adorably quirky way of pronouncing certain words, and he calls his brother, emphatically, “Eden.” I finally asked him why, and Peter responded, matter-of-factly. “I call him Eden because I love him!”
God bless you, “Eden” and Peter, as you step once more out into the bigger world. Never forget how much you love each other, my sweet boys.