In His Family, I am at the point where Laura, the youngest daughter, just got hitched. Poor papa bear's house is overtaken by parcels and maids and flowers and an assortment of wedding preparations that I don't think I ever had. The engagement was short, they were bound for Paris in June. Dear Roger gets pushed aside until the bill collector makes his way to his New York home with the butcher's bill for Laura's dream wedding.
Roger Gale has three daughters, bearing a striking resemblance to my own family as a matter of fact. I am the youngest of three girls, and though we all three don't have a doppelganger in Holmes' tale, I certainly can relate to the free spirit of Laura. Coming after my sisters in high school had its price. Big Sisters were perfectly behaved and swam peacefully in the crowd--though standing out in their own righteous ways and leaving impressive marks in the school. And then there was Morgen. . . who talked loudly, walked barefoot in the halls, and did a Forrest Gump impression during her graduation speech. I left my own mark, but in many ways I've spent a whole lot of life trying to climb out of the shadow of my two big sisters. They cast incredible shadows.
I have some Laura in me. I've followed more fancies than my sisters. I had different types of jobs, went to a different college, and have colored my hair many more times in many more colors.
Why do younger siblings do this?
In the novel, Laura has declared that she will have no children. Roger, her father, is horrified, and listens for his wife Judith to roll over in her grave. Their oldest girl Edith is motherhood: framed on a wall. She begins the novel with four children, just gave birth to a fifth, and who knows what might happen in the next hundred pages or so. She glows in the grind of raising children, sculpting their lives perfectly and running her home impressively. She strikes the ideal of the age and balks at Laura's rebellion. Does she take it personally? I find that often people's disapproval of another's choices is founded in an insecurity of their own. We project judgment and it does little good. Certainly if someone is making a choice that puts their life in danger, morally, spiritually, or physically then we should speak up with love and concern. But when it is a choice made with purposeful thought and good, solid, intentions, then perhaps we should let them be--even (and perhaps especially) if it is different than the way we would do things.
Why do older siblings not do this?
I've never had a younger sibling, so I wouldn't know. But, I do have younger sibling in-laws and I know I've been guilty of basking in the knowledge that I have more kids and so must know more than they do. Sometimes we all ache with the desire to know something, to be an expert at something, to help someone do things better than we did them. These are often grounded in love. But I think they must also be tempered with patience.
For Edith and Laura, I think that picking the fight about kids did noone any good. The night before Laura's wedding was the wrong time for Daddy to give a multiply and replenish the earth lecture. She was a mess about just becoming a wife, much less a mother. In those moments, which I imagine we've all had, when lecturing seems so natural and our wisdom seems so clear, perhaps it is best to smile, hug, and trust. I don't yet know what will come of Laura's marriage or Parisian honeymoon. I'm not sure yet how many of my own decisions will pan out. But I am learning to trust myself, even as a baby sister. So, from one youngest sister to another. . . .Good luck, Laura.