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‘Tres Marias’ (+1)

12:04 AM August 05, 2014

“You talk about your sisters a lot.”

My best friend told me that once, and even if I can’t identify the time she said it, I remember it fresh in my head. I mean, how could I not remember it when it triggered so many thoughts? And, in effect, led me to open a blank Word document and start writing?

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Well, to start, I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t “Ate” (big sis) Liane. When I wasn’t there to explain things or to play peacemaking leader, or to have the final word in the little decisions when my mom wasn’t around. I can’t, and I won’t. It’s just about as easy as trying to imagine myself as a different person, because my sisters partly define me.

My mother tells me that I was excited for the two times she announced she was pregnant, and that I wasted no time preparing myself. Even I remember that as soon as my sisters were conceived, things began to quicken in pace. I was two years old when my first sister was born, and now she has just turned 14. With her as a teenager, it all feels different, with similar problems that I had at her age bubbling up again, bringing back strings of memories that make me laugh and cringe. I’m the one who has to give advice and insight, and to play the role of the elder owl. Which, at 16, is a bit confusing, because I myself don’t know how to figure out how to stop tripping on my feet.

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My other sister, on the other hand, was born when I was five. I’m the one who has to be a playmate and to wear child’s eyes, so I can see things in her perspective. I need to understand that what are little problems to me are big problems to her, and that she’s still innocent. This year she’s turning 11, with a personality that can scare others off sometimes. She’s one of those girls who can talk back to adults without even raising an eyebrow.

(I fully and proudly admit that this is my fault.)

Currently, when my sisters are around me, they make me feel old. When they were younger it was different, especially during that time when my mom made us dress in identical clothes—until I put my foot down. I felt like a baby during those years. Now, though, as they grow, the impact of their growth weighs upon me. Every day that they grow a little bit more feels like a year on me. They’re no longer interested in winning hide and seek, they’re now interested in television and markers. Soon, God forbid, they’ll turn their heads toward boys.

The change is not only in the growing-old part that I feel. In the past my sisters always learned from me—how to walk and talk properly, to study to get higher grades. I was really used to being a role model. Lately, though, in the past couple of years, I’ve been learning from them more than they do from me. From one sister, I learned to be patient. From the other, I learned how to be a bit more behaved around people. The analogy in my head has changed from my past analogy. Instead of me being the producer and my sisters the consumers, now we are all producers and consumers. Or we can be a covalent bond, sharing electrons of answers or morals. We give and we take back.

To be frank, I can never grow used to being the one who is getting service, who is given help. As the eldest, my expectations are always thought to be the No. 1 for the younger kids. A successful firstborn results in a successful set of children. I always thought it was that way.

I’m wrong.

Saying or thinking that means we’re underestimating the younger generation, and that we believe it’s impossible to learn from them. Yet when you ask anyone with younger siblings, they answer within a heartbeat that they learn the world, and more, from them.

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What have I learned from my sisters? More than half the life lessons I know.

We aren’t as close as we can be. Our personalities clash and none of us has the exact same opinions. The youngest and I are strong, and the middle child is patient, like water against two roaring flames. The youngest is a leader, a friendly one, known even to seniors in high school. The middle is a musician, trapped in her own world, with a group of friends who have the same way of thinking. I’m quite loud, opinionated, always found writing at the back of the room, and I hang with people who are a mixture of weird, lively, joyous, ranting, furious with life.

With those three personalities, you can tell what happens. Very often my physical side gets the better of me and I suffer the consequences of being a bully. My sisters are accused of being catty or selfish. All three of us have a spoiled-brat side. Yet given the chance, I would not stop their birth, not even if it can stop so much trouble I’ll have to go through. A person has to plunge deep into suffering to know the meaning of joy and to acquire wisdom, don’t you think?

Everyone learns from his or her siblings, older or younger. In fact, we learn from most people—from their mistakes or successes, or the little things. We absorb, and absent-mindedly, we incorporate them into our lives, little by little or all at once. You can learn to appreciate life when you’re greeted at the front door with a goofy-faced sister yelling “Mom bought pizza!” with a cat bundled up in her arms. Despite how tired you are, how much your workload is tugging at the back of your mind, you smile. Things like that.

Learn from your siblings, and love them for that. Love them for teaching you, love them for learning from you. Watch them closely when they’re growing up, watch them grasp the world right before your eyes. From the older siblings they carve out a path that you have a choice to follow, and for younger siblings you have to be the one to carve a path.

My friend once said that it’s such a blessing to watch people grow, and for a long time I pondered on that. Why is it that we enjoy watching people grow? Maybe it’s because by watching others grow we feel happy for every step they take, sense every change of emotion. By watching them grow up, I learned not to be jealous of their achievement, because I know that they changed to earn it. They inspired me to perfect the art of being a role model while they still look up to me. I mean, nothing good is going to come out if I become the next juvenile delinquent.

We aren’t grown up yet, and despite that it feels like we’ve known one another since time began. And with how much I know now from them than before, who knows what the future is going to make me learn and realize?

About two years ago, we bought a cat. He’s a lovely thing, with wide yellow eyes and folded ears. We consider him our “plus 1.” He’s not a brother to us, but he’s our baby. He’s something for all of us to dote on and bully all at once. The youngest benefits the most, I think. At least I do not bully her as much as I did before.

Liane Reyes, 16, is a junior in Beacon Academy.

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