birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Bad Big Sister

I pride myself on my being a great big sister. I spent much of my tweens and teens caring for my two younger brothers, was the first in my entire family to go to college, and have never indulged in any unsavory activities or gotten into any trouble, at least that my family knew about. While my brothers don't seem to have been following in my footsteps, I can rest assured most days knowing that I've been a constant source of love, support, generosity, and protection for them.

But I have other siblings that I can't say the same for. See, in my family we don't do the "half or step sibling" thing. If you share a parent, even a stepparent, you are siblings. Thus, I have 8 siblings in all: five brothers and three sisters. In all, these siblings were sired by five fathers and four mothers. If we're being accurate, I have 7 half siblings and one step sibling. Even more accurate would be to say that I have a strong relationship and was raised with two half brothers, but I have 6 other half or step siblings with whom I've had varying levels of relationship and only during short spurts. But we don't measure siblinghood that way in my mother's house or at my father's or at any of my other siblings' mothers' or fathers' homes, either, apparently.

Besides my sister, who is 4 only months older than I am--long story--I'm the oldest of all of them. And I haven't been that great of a big sis.

Last year, for example, I forgot my youngest sister's birthday. She was born the day before my brother, so you'd think I could never forget it. Both of my close brothers were born on the 24th of the month, though--one in September and the youngest in May.

I woke up frantic on the 27th of September, dreading the belated birthday wishes I'd have to make to Jasmine for her 18th birthday--one of those milestone years. After having publicly celebrated my brother's birthday days earlier with a mushy Facebook post, I had to call her and wish her a happy belated and explain...well, nothing. Just to say I was a shitty big sister, really. And say that I was sorry. I had already missed her quinceañera and her high school graduation, and now I couldn't even wish her a happy birthday on the day of her birthday.

It really sucked, because I've been trying to foster a real relationship with these strewn-about siblings, but distance and a shaky foundation haven't helped, especially when I mess up on something like this. So, I woke up, discovered she'd deleted her Facebook page, and learned that the phone number I had for her didn't work. I was screwed. And I felt terrible with a puddle of guilt resting in the pit of my stomach.

I listlessly flipped through my calendar and discovered that her birthday was on May 24. I hadn't missed it after all.

Hanging Clothes