family

The Furious Five

by Erica.

When we were younger, the four of my siblings and I moved together as an amorphous, homogeneous blob: a sea of little round faces, five feet or less above the ground. It didn’t help that our names sounded vaguely similar, or that some of us could’ve passed as twins, or that we were all so small that any average-height person would have to squint to make out any defining features. This blob of children—all varying levels of introverted and timid—moved from one location to another, hopping out of the Honda minivan together to go to karate, to piano lessons, and back home, where we were all homeschooled. We were “that family with all those kids”—while each of us may not have been recognized on our own, people immediately knew who we were once we assembled as ducks in a line.

At some level, I also had a difficult time distinguishing my siblings in the homogeneous mix. Being the oldest of the five, I couldn’t help but think of my little siblings simply as iterations of my past self. In my head, Alexa was essentially me at age 17, Andrea me at 15, Elysia 13, Lorenzo 12. It seemed easier that way, being able to closer connect myself to their lives by just thinking about who I was a few years back.

The other day, someone told my dad that we were all getting so big (the typical comment everyone makes) and followed it by remarking that his kids were “so different from each other.” The second part of her sentence struck me, because that was the first time I had ever heard a relative stranger make a remark about us five that didn’t group us all together but separate us from one another.

But the more I thought about it, the more astute this woman’s observation seemed compared to my admittedly generalized view of my own little sisters and brother. Perhaps living a thousand miles away provided a clearer perspective than when I lived within that homogeneous sea: we weren’t all growing up into the same person.

Bit by bit, I’ve been able to watch my siblings grow into the different personalities they are. I saw it when Alexa came to visit me at school and she acted like more of a responsible, level-headed adult than even I did. I saw it when I was journaling at Starbucks with Andrea when realized her pencil sketches were at the skill level I could only dream of. I saw it when I was sitting across the dining table from Elysia as she wrote, realizing that if I had the level of zeal she has towards writing, this blog wouldn’t be so erratically maintained. And I saw it when I watched Lorenzo solve some Rubik’s cube-esque puzzle in less than minute, even though I had been working on it for twenty. I joked to my friend the other day that with my siblings getting older, it’s getting harder to maintain my status as the “alpha” sibling, but in all seriousness, I’m in constant awe of how much they’re growing up.

I said my seventh goodbye to them this morning, shaking their shoulders at 5am to say “see you in four months” before heading to the airport, their half-awake goodbyes a necessary last reminder of home.

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Caroling in New Jersey

Allison, your local Italian.

Family has always been a central part of my life. I’m Italian, and Italians do the whole family thing well. It’s right up there with our core values of carbohydrates, tomato sauce, and speaking with our hands.

Every year my cousins get together and celebrate Christmas. We plan a dinner at a nice restaurant, we have a grab bag, we play stupid and overly competitive games, and above all, we have fun.

This year we went caroling, knocking on the doors of strangers, which shocked a lot of confused New Jersey residents, who were mostly expecting the congregation of young adults on their stoop to be an angry mob, or perhaps the IRS. The population within the northern states of America doesn’t have a general comprehension of hospitality, and they certainly don’t have a place in their understanding for a large group of people standing outside their door holding a pitch pipe and bells.

A few people opened their door and quickly slammed it shut upon seeing our eager faces. We watched as porch lights mysteriously turned off as we approached their lawns. A number of haggard looking moms tried to hand us money in hopes that we would take the donation and leave. But some hapless souls opened their doors and allowed us, a haphazard group of overly excited untrained singers, to belt out our out-of-key tune before clapping lightly and exclaiming to the five year old clinging to their leg what just happened.

“Johnny, wasn’t that great?”

“Timmy, go get some candy canes for them!”

“Wow, this is great, what group are you guys from?”

And we would laugh and my brother would crash on the single symbol he brought with him while my oldest cousin would announce that we weren’t a trained chorus, despite our truly fantastic singing, but we were family.

“Cousins Christmas!” Our enthusiastic smiles beamed back at them.

This proclamation was always met with shock.

“That’s amazing,” they would stutter out, as they feebly tried to recall when they last spoke to their cousins.

“What a great idea,” they would manage to say, as they scanned their memory for recent times they spent with their own relatives.

My brother would crash on his cymbal again, the sound filling the soft silence that welled up in the short moment.

“Merry Christmas!”

And we would tromp across the street to the home of our next victim, laughing and bickering over what song to sing next.