A Love Letter to my Younger Siblings

The idea of not being best friends with my 16-year-old brother, Daniel, never even crossed my mind as an option until around middle school, when one of my friends mentioned he hardly ever even spoke to his own brother. 

Instantly, my mind jumped to all the games we spent hours playing, the stupid YouTube videos we watched together to the point of memorization (Nini does a great “Harry Potter Puppet Pals”), and the oppenness with which we communicated with each other about anything and everything, no matter what time or place, even if that meant me barging into the bathroom while he was brushing his teeth just to tell him about my day. Weren’t all sibling pairs like this? 

My relationship with Nini (the nickname Daniel begrudgingly accepted from me his freshman year of high school) has been described by the campers we counsel together, the many mutual friends we share, and any and all who know us, as “weirdly close,” simply because we choose to do so much together on such a regular basis.

As we left middle school for the jungle that is high school, our relationship only grew stronger, reaching a critical point when we lost our mom to cancer in 2016. At that time more than ever, leaning on each other — me, on Nini for his unrelenting optimism and comfort, and him on me for a “strong female role model” — was of the utmost importance. 

Our mom had always encouraged a friendship between us and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. But on our own, Nini and I began to realize we had qualities that kind of perfectly complemented each other. 

An introvert, he’s always willing to listen to my stress-induced rants and analyze awkward social situations with me over walks with the dog. As quite possibly the kindest, most empathetic person I know, he encourages me to operate with a steady sense of justice and not jump to the snap judgments I usually do if someone hurts my feelings or those of a loved one. He knows me better than anyone on earth, and we share a love for Broadway musicals, weird memes, and stand-up comedy, all directly influenced by each other.

I, the extrovert and self-appointed guru of emotional intelligence, encourage him to share his feelings, am constantly checking in on whether he likes it or not, and try my best to get him out of the house. This resulted in our finding a love for doing theater together all through high school, from the very first play where we played a brother and sister to our very last theater camp this past summer. 

Some of my favorite memories of all time involve our late-night talks or conversations in the car, discussing the characters of the people we’ve met and funny things they do or say. 

And, although almost no one knows me better, a close contender is our little sister, Laura, affectionately known in our little sibling circle as “Kiddo.” I can’t remember a time when I hadn’t wanted a little sister, from the moment I was sorely disappointed to find out “Daniela” had shown up on the ultrasound as a “Daniel.” (Sorry Nini, you know I love you.)

This figure came to me eventually in the form of Laura, whose family became so close to us after my mom passed away that they became a second, extended family to my father, my brother, and me. 

Her mom, Nannette, became a second mom figure to me. Constant check-ins, dinners at their house, and (best of all) girls’ days out, solidified a bond between me and the most important women in my life. My loud, emotional personality contrasts with Laura’s more cool, reserved one, but her stellar sense of humor (sometimes-not-always-but-mostly at my expense), her love for new music (I introduced her to Lizzo, everyone!) and the joy we found in making it together, whether it was singing or drumming or playing guitar, brought us closer together. 

Laura’s and Nan’s emotional support through every breakup and boy problem, our tradition of shopping for prom and homecoming and forcing Laura to go to makeup stores with me, coupled, of course, with going on our iconic girls’ road trip to Savannah and the countless meals at the kids’ table — that made us family. 

She and Nini accept me unconditionally, no matter how much cooler they are than me. When I have a problem or a new development in my life, they care, and they’re the first ones I want to tell. They make me feel heard and listened to and they make me want to be more creative, more expressive, and more passionate. 

Always the overachiever, there’s a lot of hats I wear inside and outside of the bubble that is Kenyon’s campus. No matter how far away I am, though, the best gig I get to have is being your big sister. 

I can’t wait for the next time we’re hanging out and jamming on guitar and piano to some Billie Eilish song we just learned the chords to. I’ll take the high harmony.  

 

Love you both and say it back,

Ler Bear

 

Image Credits: Valeria Garcia-Pozo, Shannon Fries Photography, Valeria Garcia-Pozo