Back we now go to those photos, handy triggers to memory.
Here you are, in a bathtub foamy with bubbles, your mouth open and jubilant, with a nearby companion: Caroline. You might be six years old, she only about one, and she’s looking pretty tickled, too.
Now you’re alongside her crib, Caroline standing inside, and you’re leaning in with a smile, your hands on the railing, her hands on yours.
Look, you seem to be saying. I have a sister.
Now you’re both seated in a restaurant, the two of you maybe eight and three years old. Your right arm is curled around her shoulder, bringing her close to you. She’s pressing her forehead against your cheek, jutting her jaw out with sisterly pride.
We’re brother and sister, you both appear to be saying. And nobody can ever take that away from us.
In photo after photo, this is unmistakably how it is with you and Caroline.
You’re standing by our old black bookshelf in your powder-blue pajamas, both hands clutching your sister. You’re looking laid back, the stalwart defender, and she’s practically hanging on you, smiling impishly.
You’re both in Mystic now, maybe at Abbott’s, the bay in the background. You’re behind her, your chest to her back, and you’re holding her, your left arm around her waist. Once again you smile but faintly, an impression of contentment. Caroline, though, smiles harder, feeling safe and privileged and lucky in this embrace.
Now you’re both in a restaurant again, with Caroline evidently on your lap. You’re hugging her from behind, your arms wrapped around her shoulders, your face right next to hers. Again, she’s showing teeth and you none, but the image clearly indicates intent. You’re there for Caroline and she’s thrilled you are, and it makes you feel pretty good, too.
Jump ahead five years, 10 years, 15 years, and the story stays largely the same. Your arm is around her and she’s the little sister, you’re both playing your roles, hitting your marks, knowing your lines.
But it’s more than that, much more. It’s the connection by blood. In these photos I see how very much you mean to each other, how very much you belong to each other.
I come away from these photos feeling greatly rewarded. As to why, just do the math. Mom and I created you. Then we created Caroline. But now you both have created something else: brother and sister together.
And that means something important to me. You’ll take care of each other. You’ll always have each other to count on.