Have you ever heard the expression that brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet?
What a curious sentiment, I first thought, when I read this Vietnamese proverb. Hands and feet get dirty, callused, even stinky. Why should siblings be equated to these body parts?
Then again, it makes perfect sense. If you’ve ever lost use of your hand or foot, even temporarily, you know how much more difficult life can be without it. The same could be said about siblings–whether they’re biological, foster, adopted, step, in-laws, or people otherwise positioned to fill sibling-like shoes. On the other hand, some of our greatest annoyances can be caused by our siblings. Joyce Armor candidly begins her poem “Sweet Dreams” like this:
It’s always been a wish of mine
(Or should I say a dream)
To scare my sister half to death
And hear her piercing scream.
That’s why I squished four bugs until
They all were very dead,
Then took them to my sister’s room
And put them in her bed.
I never put bugs in my sister’s bed (at least I’ll never admit to that), but I experienced first hand the awareness that siblings can be natural born competitors. I’m still trying to figure out which of my darling siblings styled my hair this way.
Lemony Snicket said, “siblings that say they never fight are most definitely hiding something.” Sibling relationships, in fact, can be some of the most complex ones we experience in our lives, and that’s why some great thinkers out there decided we should have another Hallmark holiday: National Sibling’s Day!
Yes, this Sunday, April 10th, is a day to enjoy, appreciate, reflect upon, tell embarassing stories about, forgive, blackmail, reconnect with, and otherwise celebrate our brothers and sisters.
In fact, Third Place Books – Ravenna (in Seattle) will be hosting Love, Jealousy, and Other Sibling Complications this Sunday at around 5:00 pm, when ten local poets and writers will read their works about siblings. Those readings will be followed by an open mic for any other brave souls who want to share their stories, and that will then be followed by a hangout at Vios Pub downstairs. Woo-hoo! Let’s hear it for siblings! (If nothing else, they can provide all sorts of entertainment.)
I hope, if you’re in the Seattle area, you’ll be able to drop by. In the meantime, here’s a fun little quiz about loving and not-so-loving siblings in history, pop culture, and literature.
1. We’ll start out easily: What was the name of the popular musical group founded by three brothers from Gary, Indiana in 1963, which later expanded to include two additional brothers?
2. What did Dylan Thomas do after he knocked down his brother, who had knocked down Dylan’s snowman?
3. Who, according to Coldplay, should unite during the times of their lives?
4. Match up these literary sisters with their books’ titles:
Elinor and Marianne Geek Love
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy The Blind Assassin
Iphigenia and Electra We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Merricat and Constance Sense and Sensibility
Iris and Laura Little Women
5. Which of these real-life brotherly duos was featured in a recent film starring Johnny Depp?
a) George and Jeb Bush
b) Lyle and Erik Menendez
c) Edwin Thomas and John Wilkes Booth
d) Whitey and Billy Bulger
e) Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
6. Who first sang the lyrics, “Come on people now, Smile on your brother…”
7. Name the three:
a) TV witch sisters who protected the innocents in San Francisco.
b) Disney Channel brothers whose band was nominated for a Best New Artist Grammy award in 2008 but who have since broken up with each other at least twice.
c) Sister-writers who grew up in nineteenth century Haworth, Yorkshire and shocked many of their peers.
d) Reality TV sisters whose father once defended O.J. Simpson and who have also shocked many of their peers.
8. Who said, “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them?”
9. Which two brothers went head-to-head in a Super Bowl?
a) John and Jim Harbaugh
b) Eli and Peyton Manning
10. What British prince told his brother, “You’ll be King, I won’t; so I can do what I want!”
11. Which of these TV siblings were best known for their musical talents?
a) Joanie and Richie Cunningham
b) Alex, Jennifer, Mallory, and Andrew Keaton
c) Ross and Monica Gellar
d) Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon Stark
e) Keith, Laurie, Danny, Tracy, and Chris Partridge
12. Name the author who penned this quote. “There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother… Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.”
13. On which TV show would you have heard these lyrics?
I remember when you first came home,
Then came another, little brother of our own.
Even when you break my toys, You will always be my,
Little brothers, ’Cuz you’re younger, We’re related, and you’re boys.
Even when you’re making too much noise,
You will always be my,
14. Which real-life siblings bickered the most?
a) Jimmy and Billy Carter
b) Madonna and Christopher Ciccone
c) Anne and Mary Boleyn
d) Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne Andrews
e) Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine
f) Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips
15. True or false: Cleopatra shared a loving relationship with her siblings.
16. What recent TV series revolved around a frosty oldest sister with a biting wit, a middle sister who was constantly put down for her appearance and failures in love, and a sweet-tempered, politically conscious youngest sister?
17. Where did identical twins Hallie Parker and Annie James first reunite?
18. Name the band that made these lyrics famous way back in 1969.
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
19. What best-selling novel was inspired by 19th century abolitionist sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimke?
20. What were the names of the two Vietnamese sisters who started a rebellion against the Chinese in AD39?
Bonus question: Can you name the two elderly sisters in “From Here to Cafayate” (a story in Women on the Brink) who are still fighting about being the favorite daughter?
I hope you enjoyed the quiz. And I hope your sibling relationships fare better than Cleopatra’s did. Most of all, I hope National Sibling’s Day is good to you.
In closing, I’ll leave you with Erma Bombeck’s description of what life was like in her family’s household when she was young—a child’s perspective of how forging a life with siblings might prepare us for the greater world…and the rest of our lives. (Come to think of it, this quote could almost be used to describe the Walking Dead survivors, too.)
“[We were] a strange little band of characters trudging through life, sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”
1. The original members of the Jackson Brothers were Jackie, Tito, and Jermaine. Marlon and Michael later joined the group, which changed its name to The Jackson Five.
2. He had tea.
3. Brothers and sisters.
4. The Dashwoods – Sense and Sensibility; The Marshes – Little Women; The Binewskis – Geek Love; The Blackwoods – We Have Always Lived in the Castle; The Chases – The Blind Assassin.
5. Black Mass was about notorious mobster Whitey Bulger and his politically-minded brother, Billy.
6. The Youngbloods.
7. Prue, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell in Charmed; Nick, Kevin, and Joe Jonas; Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte; Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe Kardashian.
8. Desmond Tutu.
9. John coached the Baltimore Ravens to a Superbowl win in 2013. I read things were a little awkward after the game. But if you want to really talk awkward, it was the expression on Eli Manning’s face when his brother Peyton won the Superbowl in 2016.
10. Prince Harry said this to Prince William when, at the age of six, he realized that he had more freedom than his brother, the future king.
11. Based on the real-life singing family The Cowsills,The Partridge Family sang their way to stardom.
12. Anna Quindlen.
13. Phineas and Ferb.
14. Hard to say! Some say Billy Carter, who in childhood was jealous of big brother Jimmy, contributed to Jimmy’s political demise; Madonna and Christopher stopped speaking to one another when he released his memoir Life with My Sister Madonna; Anne married Henry VIII after Mary had been his mistress; Maxene blamed the cold sisterly relations on working too closely together, but apparently control freaks Mom and Dad didn’t exactly help the situation; actresses Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine competed for men, acting gigs, the attention of their mother, and the same Best Actress Oscar in 1942; the decades-long feud between the Dear Abby and Ann Landers columnists started when Pauline allegedly offered to write “Dear Abby” for their hometown newspaper for less pay if it promised not to print “Ask Ann.”
15. Um, not exactly. Cleopatra was supposed to co-rule the land with brother Ptolemy XIII, but Ptolemy tried to depose her so he could be big man on campus. A civil war broke out, and Julius Caesar was planning to just tell the kids to settle down and play nice, until Cleo seduced him. Ptolemy XIII died, and then little brother Ptolemy XIV died, and so did sister Arsinoe. A pattern?
16. Think tea, crumpets, and Downton Abbey.
17. Summer camp.
18. The Hollies.
19. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. Oprah is planning to make a movie based on the book.
20. Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who learned martial arts as children, assembled an army of rebels –mostly women–who were successful pushing the Chinese back at first. Eventually, they were overcome, and the Trung sisters committed suicide by drowning themselves in the Hat River, but their valor is still remembered and honored in Viet Nam today.
Bonus question: You’ll have to read the book! Normally $4.99, on sale this weekend for only 99 cents.