Brother. / by Sarah Schwartz

In a few short days, I will be reunited my with baby sister after five long months of being apart. I will leave my little life here in Los Angeles, and she will bid adieu to her adventure in London, so that we can return to the farmhouse that sits at the end of the lane that bears our mothers maiden name. (Ok, I’m in La Mirada, and she’s in Carnforth, but really, who is keeping track?)

We will say goodbye, if only for a short time, to the worlds in which we fancy ourselves independent adults, and to the people we trick into thinking we are such, and get to be “the girls” again. Sarah and Kate. Kate and Sarah. Where are the girls? people ask my parents. The girls are coming home this week! my mother has been telling anyone who will listen to her. Have you heard from the girls lately? my grandmother calls to ask my father. I read somewhere once that having a sister is like having a special kind of double, someone who is very much like ourselves, and very much not like ourselves, all at the same time. And that is true of Kate; she is my special double-but-not.

Increasingly after we left home, Kate and I came to appreciate the kind of shared understanding siblings possess. Phrases like, I just had to tell you, I knew you’d be the only one who would appreciate this, and I wanted to tell someone who would understand started creeping into our conversations. Distance led us to regularly text each other lines from favorite songs, or tv shows, in the knowledge that the other would know exactly what we were quoting, and smile. I just heard that, and it reminded me of you/us/that one time. And that’s how we’ve been living our lives, in a secret clubhouse, lets practice our sister handshake and exchange knowing looks across the table at Thanksgiving kind of way.

And then one day, when we were least expecting it, we found out we had a brother.

Brother. Say it slowly. Say it out loud. Bruuuuuther. And not just any brother, a man brother. A full grown man brother. The kind with a family and a life and until recently, no idea that he had two secret-clubhouse-having-double-but-not-double-knowing-look-exchanging sisters. It’s a crazy story, but a good one. A story full of tears and selfless people and distance and time and courage and redemption and hope. The best kind of story, really.

And so now the brother man and I exchange emails. And while email is a poor and rather incomplete means communication, and even though we didn’t share a growing up life, I can’t help but notice that our exchanges hold the same sparks of understanding that I share with my sister. He writes as if he knows you, my friends tell me as I read them the latest. I have a folder in my inbox marked “brother”, and sometimes, before I fall asleep, I scroll through our conversations and marvel at all these last few months have held.

Now you see, this brother man of mine is a thoughtful guy, always referring in our exchanges to Kate as my sister, wording I’m sure is on purpose out of respect for me. And you’d think I’d appreciate that, think I’d want to guard my sister and our sisterhood, claiming her all for myself. But in my most recent email, I made it a point to put an our before the word sister. She is ours, just the way that he is ours. And I can think of nothing I want more than the welcome him, arms outstretched, into this funny little friendship Kate and I share, knowing that he has much to bring and offer and add, much to learn and teach and discover right alongside us.