HALLIE EPHRON: Last year, my husband and I scanned all of the old family pictures that I ended up with, loaded them onto flash drives, and gave the flash drives as Christmas presents to my family. It sure beat fruitcake -- which just for the record I adore. Anyone who gets unwanted fruitcake, send it to me.
I was the third of what turned out to be four of us, sharing (something I've never been good at) 'middle' status with my sister Delia. I credit that birth order with a tendency to avoid competition -- which is why it took me so long to finally get with the family business and write.
My oldest sister was the typical bossy overachiever. My other middle sister the typical peace-maker, and she's still the one who connects us all. My baby sister was the brat, always wanting things her (as opposed to MY) way. A rule breaker who'd much rather dance on the yellow line than cross in the crosswalk.
Where are you in your family? Oldest, youngest, or like me one of the ones caught in the middle, and did it mark you for life?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Typical bossy overachiever, you say? Yup,I'm the oldest. (And was REALLY good at all those things.)
HALLIE: Why am I not surprised by this?
HANK: Which meant my younger sister, Nina the top of the middle, was my servant. She was the funny cute popular one, I was the nerdy striving bookish ambitious one. I'm not sure how "bookish" and "wanting the spotlight" can connect, but there you have it.
The next middle sister, Nancy, was "Nurse Nancy," taking care of everyone. Nina and I used to pretend to play with her, and then make up the rules of all the games. "No, it's okay for me to use that word in Scrabble, it's Hawaiian." Nancy's a top-notch caterer now, still taking care of everyone, and makes her own rules.
Liz, the fourth? The horsey one (meaning, she loved horses)and now teaches dressage.
Then came the youngest, Chip, who's a hot shot environmental attorney. I can't believe I used to baby sit for Chip when I was 16 and he was 6. Now he's gorgeous and a real catch. Just saying.
Whenever we're all together, the SAME relationships emerge. I boss, Nina laughs, Nancy cooks, Liz ignores, Chip pontificates. We love it.
HALLIE: So funny, Hank -- when my daughters, now both over 30, get in the back seat of the car they still fight. ("You're breathing funny..." "Move over..." "You smell like cheese...")
JAN BROGAN: I'm the youngest of four, but the only girl, so I feel marked both by birth order and by gender isolation. As the youngest, you don't get to give orders, so you learn to ignore them. For that reason, I'm not a good joiner, not especially a leader, but definitely a freelancer who likes to go her own way.
But to get to play with older brothers - you had to be pretty tough - no whining allowed when you were selected to be "it" yet again - and you had to be competitive. I had one of my brother's friends tell me that it was obvious I was always trying to "beat my brothers."
But I have to say, I feel blessed to have brothers, at least my brothers. The oldest, Bob, is definitely the leader of the pack - and he has set the tone -we stay extremely closer and support each other and no petty arguments are ever been allowed. There are no factions. (do you think that's a girl thing?) In fact, I don't think any of us has had a single argument with each other as adults. Since it was the norm in our family, I never fully appreciated it until I started looking around at other people's adult sibling relationships.
RHYS BOWEN: Another bossy overachiever here. Actually I was an only child until I was seven, so I was used to being the center of the universe and not at all happy to have a bratty little brother. He claims he never did well in school, never bothered to try because I was so perfect and over-achieving. I never really got to know him until we were both adults and now he lives in Australia which means we don't see each other too often. By our mother's death and upheavals in his personal life made us really close.
It is interesting to find out that FOUR Reds were one of four siblings because I have four children and the oldest was always an over-achiever but not bossy the second always feisty, insecure and rebellious, the third even feistier, independent and determined to get her own way and the youngest, the only boy, growing up expecting success and acceptance and getting it.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm the youngest of two, and my brother is almost ten years older. He was so definitely the bossy, type-A, take charge, overachiever--my mom used to say from the time he could walk and talk he had logical, reasoned arguments for why things should be done his way.
You might guess that this put me in the big-time pleaser category, something I've struggled with my entire life. I've never been sure how much birth-order really has to do with personality, though. I can't imagine my brother having been different if our birth order had been switched. And because I was so much younger I grew up in many ways like an only, which SHOULD have made me bossier...
Interesting that I've made my two main protagonists, Duncan and Gemma, the older siblings out of two, and my secondary protagonists, Melody and Doug, are both only children. I seldom write characters that come from big families, and I'm not sure whether I'm reflecting my own circumstances, or just avoiding fictional complications:-)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My family sibling relationships are... complicated. My dad (five kids) married my mom (three kids) and adopted me. We didn't all live together when we were young, but things can get pretty raucous at family get-togethers.
I'm the oldest of my three, the good daughter and bossy older sister who struck out for college when my sister was fifteen and my brother ten. Emotionally speaking, I'm the farthest ranging, the one who drives everyone nuts because I never remember birthdays and I'll go for months without calling before I suddenly realize, "Oh! I should let my parents know I'm still alive!" Physically, we're also far-flung: I'm 400 miles away from my parents, as are my brother and sister and their families. Barbara and Patrick and I all lived in D.C. once, but they stayed while I decamped for Maine, so now we're over 500 miles apart.
We were all spaced far enough apart so we all had our day in the sun - I got to be the adored only child for a while, then Barb, with naturally curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, and finally Patrick, who was so cute (he has a dimple! On his cheek!) ladies would stop my mother to coo over him. He's still awfully adorable. But taken. Hank, I have a fabulous single friend here in Maine. I think we should talk about your brother, Chip.
LUCY BURDETTE: I am the second of four, arriving only eleven months after my sister. (Can you imagine? What were they thinking?) Then a brother came two years after me and another sister after that. Actually I seem to have turned out more bossy and overachieving than my older sister--though we were always lumped together and called "the girls." Really I was supposed to have been a boy, named after my father, Robert. Then my brother came along--oh the rejoicing! he was always the prince among us girls, which was most annoying, though he's turned out to be a lovely man and very funny.
But my older sister and I used to torture the younger sibs by making up rules and games--like "Get Lost", which we played in campgrounds. Once the tent trailer was pitched, we'd take the younger kids blindfolded into the far recesses of whatever property it was and abandon them with the campground map. (You don't need a degree in psychology to interpret that!)
ROSEMARY HARRIS: I'm the younger of two girls - and practically perfect in every way. At least that's what what parents and older sister seemed to think. She was six years older so there was enough of a spread for us not to be competitive - although Paula was the least competitive person I've ever met. She totally let me have my way with EVERYTHING. We shared a bedroom and some days I'd decide to move all of her stuff and she never once complained! She also taught me to smoke and drink and play Seven Minutes in Heaven. All the important life lessons.
Sadly (or maybe not) no baby pictures of me exist. I think the Polaroid was the hot camera when I was little and all of those photos seemed to have disintegrated.
HALLIE: Goodness, Rosemary, so you named your main character Paula Holiday after your sister! That is the sweetest thing ever.
JUNGLE RED QUIZ AND BOOK GIVEAWAY! WHO'S WHO?
Post your guesses in Comments.
Today we're share some pictures of us when we were little and maybe even, for a few glorious moments, the baby in our families. Can you tell who's who? Prizes!! (AIRTIME and COME AND FIND ME) to the first two to guess who's who. One of the babies in here is a ringer. (Check back tomorrow to see who won.)
MATCH THE BABY PICTURE TO:
a. Jan Brogan
b. Lucy Burdette
c. Hallie Ephron
d. Rhys Bowen
e. Deborah Crombie
f. Hank Phillippi Ryan
g. Julia Spencer-Fleming
h. Ringer (one of these photos is stand in for Ro)