On Little Brothers and Big Sisters
*Ten fingers for ten hours in a small van in Guatemala. Miraculously, my brother R and I still liked each other after that ride. Also, taking a trip with my brother was probably the best decision I made last year.
"Right after he graduated from Plank, Micah told Frida that he was moving into a loft with other members. "The Group?" she’d repeated, and asked if he’d also gotten into acrobatics and fire-breathing when she wasn’t looking.
'You've got it all wrong,' he said.
'It just doesn't seem like your thing,' she said.
Micah had shaken his head. ‘You don’t know anything about me.’
That had stung a little, and still did. If she knew anyone, it was her little brother.
When had that stopped being true?”
-California, Edan Lepucki
Nothing I read about California before I started reading it prepared me for Micah. Most of what is written about the book focuses on how this is the story of a marriage, and the relationship between Frida and Cal has given me a lot to think about, but I’ve been equally captivated by the story of Frida and her brother.
I’m the oldest of four and the only girl, and I can be the stereotypical bossy, know-it-all older sister. All of my brothers live in Virginia, and I’m here in New York, and I think a lot about how kids raised in one house can be shaped so differently by their shared experiences. As my brothers have gotten older they’ve pushed back on me a bit and reminded me that they are their own people and carving out lives on their own terms. It’s been a little tough to step back and let that happen, but they have all grown into really wonderful men (though, I still contest I have much better taste in music).
*R hiking to Semuc Champey (outside of Lanquin, Guatemala)
I keep reading posts where people seem so anti-Micah. Though I’ve only read through chapter 8, he seems complex and frustrating and Not Entirely Good, but I’m intrigued by him and I will never tire of reading stories about brothers and sisters.
I’m also really fascinated by the dynamic between the three of them: Frida, Cal, and Micah. Micah brought Frida and Cal together, but then Cal seemed to become a wedge between the two siblings.
Also, this got me thinking about how there are a lot of books about the relationship between sisters or the relationship between brothers, but I don’t know of as many books that really look at the relationship between sisters and brothers.
Do y’all have any suggestions?
I’ve been thinking about this post a lot since it first went up. What
would my artifact be if I was leaving behind the world as I knew it?
I used to know, but then this spring, my apartment was broken into
while I was at work. This had been a rough spring for a number of
reasons, and the break-in happened days before I left town for a major work project. They stole my computer, all of my jewelry, and emptied out a tiny box of “artifacts” collected over the years, including a guitar pick that belonged to my dad and piece of glass from the cupola at my college.
With so many other things happening, I just felt numb to it all. I mostly didn’t care about the things I lost. But then, whenever I was telling the story and got to the part about losing a bracelet that my grandmother had made for me I would get so emotional I could barely continue. When my grandparent’s got married they had almost no money, but my grandmother wanted a silver collection. On their wedding day they received five silver spoons and one silver fork, but then babies came and the importance of having a silver collection got lost. They had a really loving marriage and have played a huge role in my life, and on their 50th anniversary my grandmother had the spoons turned into bracelets for her three daughters and two granddaughters, and had the fork split into three pieces and made into tie pins for the three grandsons. I liked wearing it and feeling connected to the history of their marriage and all of the love that came out of it.
I would have packed that bracelet, and the guitar pick, and the piece of glass, but those things are gone. And so last night I walked around my room, looking for a small thing that I would want to take with me. I found it on my bookshelf.
It’s a little stand mixer that was part of a doll house set that my mom played with when she was growing up, and that I would later play with at my grandparent’s house. It reminds me of the Kitchen Aid stand mixer that belonged to my grandmother, and now sits in my kitchen, but would be way too big to take on this kind of journey. (Also, don’t fret! My grandmother is still alive, but she lives at a really nice place where they cook all her meals, so she gave it to me). Every year my cousin and I exchange stockings and cap the price limit at $15. We spend all year trying to find the best trinkets to fill it with, and she always wins. Finding this little mixer in my stocking was such a sweet and thoughtful surprise. I think it would remind me of many of the same things the bracelet did.
What would you bring?
But now, she realized how silly she had been. She understood that these confessions, these stories about the past, were a rite of passage for any couple, cliched but crucial, necessary to their survival. If she’d been with other men before Cal- not random one-night stands, or ongoing trysts with deli busboys, but real relationships- she might have known this.
She would have understood, too, that all the talking in the world couldn’t give everything away, that a person was always capable of keeping secrets. It might have saved her from feeling betrayed by her husband here at the end of the world. California, by Edan Lepucki
California, Edan Lepucki
"The night they met, she had asked, ‘You know why they don’t say ‘men and children first?’. He said he didn’t. ‘Because that would be redundant,’ she replied."
I like that Frida is complex, and I think we all are. I’m a feminist and I also really love cooking for those that I love. I think sometimes complexity and individual interests/inclinations/sort-of-lost-for-a-word-here get lost in our conversations around gender and relationship dynamics.
This is mostly just a note to say that I’m really looking forward to the conversations we are going to have about their relationship.