When strangers ask me how many brothers and sisters I have, I usually have to pause, and think before answering. If it’s just the run-of-the-mill stranger, who I won’t see again and the answer “two” will suffice my conscience, I go with that. If it’s someone I think I might remotely run into again, who might remember my answer of “two,” and then question me about why I am suddenly talking about ‘my little sisters,” or, “my other brother,” I have to answer more truthfully, which is more of a mouthful than a number. There are stories and backstories to my answer, which makes things complicated. On a good day, I have six, though two I almost always claim, since I was raised with them, despite the fact that we share zero DNA, two “halfs” as I refer to them, since that denotes the fact that we do not share the same father, and two “littles,” because thats what they were to me when I met them: 4 and 8…little sisters.
Sibling relationships are complicated.
Adoption makes that even more complicated.
I was in graduate school when I found my sibling’s families. My sister is lucky enough to be born in a state that allows her easy access to her Original Birth Certificate (you know, the one that’s historically true, and lists the vagina she came out of, and not the made up one that she carries identifying her as being my sister by blood). Once she got that certificate in the mail she had a last name and my sleuthing dug up an old Classmates.com account and voila, she was in contact with her mother. And her sister. Or half sister. I’m not sure how she classifies it, now.
My brother wasn’t so lucky as he was born in the same locked-down version of Washington State law that doesn’t allow us access to our own medical and historical documents without having our parent’s consent (though how the fuck we get the consent when we don’t know who these people are is beyond me). We did have first names, though, and the information that they were married, or at least HAD been married at some time. 24 hours of hardcore internet searching, cross-referencing and examining birthdates and address records, led me to his parents. They are married. One older half brother. Two younger full sisters.
The English language doesn’t have words or names for my brother’s sister. No, she’s not my sister-in-law, I told someone one time. She’s my brother’s sister. Or my sister’s sister. Funnier yet is when I talk about my sister’s mother, a lovely woman, who I got to meet one spring day at my parent’s house.
Confused yet? Cause I sure am…
It’s strange enough that I have to always explain that, yes I have 2 moms and 2 dads, no they aren’t step-parents, and no they aren’t gay, either. I have between 2 and 6 siblings, and my siblings have siblings, and I don’t have a name for that, or a name for my sibling’s parents, either.
So I was talking to my sister Poochie this week, and she was telling me her excitement and anxiety about going down to see her family in Oregon. That she was walking Hood to Coast with them, her mother, and grandmother, and aunts and cousin and her sister. And that she was excited because “all the girls” were gonna be in the same van.
But I would not be in that van.
And I felt sad.
Not intentionally, or like I even want to be a part of her family in that way, but because she and I weren’t doing something together. That I had to share, and sharing is hard, and I wanted to say mean things like “my son is cuter than your other sister’s son,” but I held my tongue.
Her reunion with her family is what I’ve wanted and advocated and fiercely defended to outsiders and our parent’s alike. Same with my brother, though he is much more private about his encounters wiht a fully functioning biological set of family, though I am often startled when pictures pop up unsolicited online.
I am jealous.
It’s not that I want their other lives, but I sometimes long for it to not be so fucking complicated.
Mostly I just kinda wish I was wearing pink sneakers and walking to the ocean with my sister.