My mum’s muffled world was divided into two hemispheres with her brothers and sisters on one side behind her protective back, and the rest of the world before her. A world she would have taken on at any cost to protect her siblings. I remember how resentful I was of this, while I was growing up as an only child. There was no way you could ignore the siblings. They hovered, they showered and they snitched on you as they watched over you.
All for your own good, they said.
They mothered you, they smothered you, they crept out of the woodwork at every family do and birthday and they loved you to death and beyond. They were a part of the lives of all the fifty seven first cousins, of the second generation and we belonged to all twelve of them. It did not matter whose progeny you were. We belonged to ALL of them.
There were some long standing feuds, between the siblings, with under currents of discontent, when they became adults. Most of these were connected by serial pages of book-keeping and accounts, that rumbled and retched at family gatherings. However, there was one golden rule that they never broke. They could fight among themselves in a fiendish way, if necessary, but the world could not touch any one of them. If the enemy was from outside, all twelve of them would stand in a straight line, arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, to take on the outsider.
Blood ran thicker than water among the Siblings.