My sister has been spending a few days with me this week.
She and I have not lived together for twenty-nine years, and are seldom together for more than a few days at a time. In fact, it is only recently that we have stayed under the same roof over-night, and yet...
I share with my sister certain verbal habits and mannerisms that have developed over an entire lifetime; some of them date back to our shared childhoods, and some only to the last year or two.
Communication is a fascinating thing. Lots of close relationships develop all kinds of shorthand. The husband and I can convey scads of subtle information via a word or two, the squeeze of a hand, a look or a gesture, but that’s not terribly surprising since we share our lives, our work and our home.
I wonder if there is something very particular about being children together, about the shared learning and experiences of infants, or, even, whether there’s a genetic component that means that two people (or, in our case, five) can continue to have a complex and effective network of communication long after time and proximity are lost.
We are not alike, my sister and I. I’m not sure I’m very like any of my siblings, but, somehow, we understand each other, effortlessly it seems to me.
So when we’re together, and there’s a decision to be made, we do a little verbal dance.
One of us will begin a question, “Shall we..?”
The other will answer, “Shall we?”
Then we will say it together.
No one will have said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but we will both know the answer, and, nine times out of ten, we’ll be laughing about it. It’s something to do with the tone. It’s something to do with whether or not ‘shall’ ends in a couple of ‘l’s or a ‘w’. It’s something to do with my sister’s eyes widening at the prospect of whatever it is. Most of all, though, I suspect it’s something to do with us being sisters, and that’s more than OK with me.