My little brother Billy is younger than Ellie, my niece. I know, I know: weirder things have happened. But it’s still one of those things that always turns heads when it comes out.
“This one-and-a-half-year-old toddling at your feet is Ellie and the infant in the crib is her uncle Billy.” It just sounds weird, doesn’t it? It sounds… off.
But from the moment Billy was born, Ellie was protective of him. I guess that’s the way older sisters are supposed to be? Mine just treated me like a doll and I wasn’t having it. And as for my brother… But Billy and Ellie were inseparable. Are inseparable. Will be.
At adoption agencies, they do their absolute best to keep siblings together. They move mountains. Siblings bond—whether we like to admit it or not—almost as much as children and parents.
“When are we gonna talk about you moving out?” Mom asks my brother one day. It’s after dinner and the kids are in the other room. My step-dad’s there, too: Billy’s father.
The question takes Jasper by storm. I actually can’t remember if I was there, too, or just saw it in a vision, but it surprised me, too. It wasn’t something that I’d ever thought about. I think Jasper had the idea, too, that this was a permanent thing. He’d converted his own bedroom into something like a Master Love Nest we all pretended Lucy wasn’t living out of, too, by the end of our senior year. The kids had Aly’s old room for a nursery, but I’d be off to college soon and one could have mine. I didn’t see what the problem was.
“We’re just looking for a time-line right now,” said our stepdad. “It doesn’t have to be now, but we just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page about our future. Your future.”
“My future’s right here,” Jasper said. “Ellie. She’s my future.”
He didn’t mention Lucy. You can imagine there are reasons for that, but that’s not important now. What mattered was her.
“We just thought you and Ellie might want some privacy,” Mom explained, still treating him with kids’ gloves.”
Were they talking around the subject of Lucy?
“It’s just, if you’re wanting to start a family—“
“Do you want me out of here?”
Our mother feigns surprise. It’s not that the question is unexpected, it’s just coming so early in the conversation.
“It’s not that we don’t want you—“
“Ellie is fine here,” says Jasper. “And if Ellie’s fine, I’m fine. Are you fine?”
Our parents looked at each other.
“What do you want me to do, pay rent?” Jasper said. “I already buy most of the groceries—“
“Rent would be nice, actually,” Mom mused. “That is, I mean, we could use some help with the mortgage? The Property Tax?”
I was gonna be out of there soon. I didn’t need to be a part of this conversation. But it quickly became clear this was gonna be one of those weird multigenerational households that Americans pretend are newfangled even though every society everywhere has had them. Mom with her husband; son with his girlfriend; his daughter and her son growing up together like it’s just the two of them. Just those two…
They’ll fix up the house so unrecognizable when I visit after college. They’ll grow old together—or maybe they’ll part ways when Ellie moves out. Or maybe Ellie will keep the house. This doesn’t have to be a source of stress.