“You can choose your friends but you sho’ can’t choose your family, an’ they’re still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge ’em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don’t.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
As a homeschooled family, I spent a good portion of my childhood years with my siblings. They were my friends, mortal enemies (at times), playmates, and competition. Our parents made it a priority for us to get along with each other.
To this day, I look at my siblings as my closest friends. Now 30, I have had decades of memories with them that have filled my life with joy, laughter, and love.
We aren’t close because we’ve always gotten along with each other. We’re close because we have learned how to forgive each other and move past the differences that make us unique.
As we’ve gotten older, we’ve all found paths that are very different than each other. Some of us have gotten married, had children, traveled the world, started a business, joined the military, or have come out of the closet.
When you put us all together in a room, you might be surprised to see how well we get along with each other in spite of the drastic differences that have set us apart in our own respective communities.
During our younger years, our mother developed an innate way to maintain the peace between us. For the most part, it worked. When it didn’t, sparks would fly.
As time passed by, the fights would fade in the background. Bringing them up never served anybody and we all came to realize that none of us get it right all of the time. More often than not, we’d have to forgive ourselves just as much as the other siblings for any disagreement that happened.
Not all of the fights were bad, however. We learned healthy ways to compete with each other that didn’t involve yelling (or bloodshed).
As a homeschooled family, our parents found really interesting ways to keep us entertained, educated, and competitive with each other.
We were constantly involved with activities at the local recreation centers – enrolled in many classes and sports leagues. These included art, pottery, tennis, fencing, basketball, volleyball, swimming, flag football, tennis, and racquetball.
In addition to sports, we spent many hours at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. We probably could have paid for one of their renovation projects with the number of fines we accumulated for our late fees.
One such outcome of a library trip involved the infamous method of torture known as ‘Chinese water torture’ – a process used to drive the victims to insanity.
The method was simple; you’d tie down a helpless victim and, holding a water dropper from a 6ft. height, slowly drip water on their forehead, one drop at a time. This format of torture was legendary for its effectiveness and ability to break the will of a prisoner.
Our mother recalls one afternoon, things were simply “too quiet” around the house and her parenting sense kicked in to see what us kids were up to.
Her hunch was correct and she opened the bathroom door to see three of us holding down our sibling on the floor; strapping his body to the floor using towels.
Standing atop the counter was Steve, the oldest, with a small eye dropper, patiently dripping water onto Mark’s forehead while he screamed for help.
As you can imagine, our fun was quickly put to an end and Mark (a willing participant, if I remember correctly…) was free to go.
Looking back on that day, I can’t remember which of us had the idea to torture Mark. I also can’t remember how we convinced him to act as a [semi] willing participant for our little experiment. Yet, it remains one of our favorite memories and delivers Mark a good deal of sympathy from others when they hear the story.
We’ve since learned to be a lot nicer to Mark…