Drawing by Marine Pellissier
There is an unsaid beauty in the backseat minivan glance shared between my brother and I when our parents say something unintentionally funny. It’s the same glance we share with our girls when the guy that we’ve been bashing in the group chat walks in the room. It’s the energy of an inside joke intermingled with the love and compassion that comes with any deep bond. It’s a silent are you seeing this?
Distance has drastically reduced these backseat moments and now I find myself seeing moments from the childhood my brother and I shared strewn across London like confetti when I least expect it. Although we certainly make the best of the long-distance phone calls across time zones, it is nevertheless heartwarming to see our relationship reflected through sibling pairs in the city.
1. There is such gentle care in this sister on the tube extending her arm out in front of her baby brother to stop him from leaning forward and potentially tumbling over into the aisle. A toddler herself, the girl heard the train announcement of the approaching stop, recognized her brother getting a bit too dangerously close to the edge of the seat, and decided to turn into a protectress.
She didn’t know that their mother had already been holding his arm on the other side, and she hadn’t thought about how the numerous strangers smiling at her brother surely would have caught him if he had fallen. All she knew in that moment was that her baby brother may have been in danger, and that she was going to do something about it.
2. There is such pride in my friend telling me how her brother, now a doctor working with the NHS, worked incredibly hard to get where he is today. She often brings up how he works tirelessly and courageously in the emergency department, and how he prioritizes his patients. She recently delivered dinner to his apartment after a particularly long shift.
I hope he knows that he has a fan club of his sister’s friends cheering him on from afar while he tends to his patients.
3. There is such love in the man talking to his sister on the phone while sitting across from me in Russell Square. He’s asking her when she can make it into the city with her children. He says he feels he hasn’t been a very good uncle, as he wipes his tears with a handkerchief. He wishes he’d prioritized his nieces more. He’ll do better this year, he says.
I wonder if he’ll make it to Christmas dinner this December, and something in his voice convinces me that he will.
No one tells you when you become an older sibling that you are now a protector, a cheerleader, a supporter, and a best friend all in one for the rest of your life. When you’re first handed that little bundle that they call a newborn baby, you don’t realize that you’ll be sharing inside jokes, eye rolls, clothes, and childhood stories for years to come. No, they just say “Congrats!” and hand you a baby.
I think perhaps they don’t tell you much else because there aren’t words for some bonds. How do you put into words the care of the sister on the tube who thinks she is the only thing stopping her brother from falling? How do you describe the pride we feel when our siblings accomplish the goals that we always knew they would? How do you voice the apology of the man in Russell Square for not being there for his sister? Some of these things evade words just like the backseat glances do.
It’s a sibling thing, after all.
If you’d like to share one of your tiny moments that revealed a big idea about love, feel free to contribute to the “Nothing like the Sun” column by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Edited by Noor Hatimy, Sex and Relationships Editor