Many years ago when I was in high school and still rocking a double A-cup and wrinkle-free face, I had a friend sleep over. As one does.
We went to a party the night before, and then came home and crashed in my room. The next morning she woke earlier than I did (because then, as now, everyone wakes earlier than I do) and headed to work. She left me a note, but because she couldn’t find a piece of paper or a pen, her note was scrawled in pencil on a piece of cardboard. In it she thanked me for the sleepover, made plans to meet up after she was done work, and then apologized for the crude note, saying “It’s all I could find in the anarchy”.
She didn’t mean the chaos of my room (then, as now, I was pretty tidy I think) but the chaos of our house. The sheer volume of sisters and animals and activities. Six children and one dog and two cats and two guinea pigs and no pens because no one could ever find one no matter how many times my poor mom refilled the jar on her desk.
Ever since that note we have referred to the collective unit of my family together as “The Anarchy”. It is the most efficient description that I have ever found, implying a force of nature, an unrest; a boisterous, jubilant uprising.
It implies recklessness and shouting, an unmanned ship or leaderless rebellion.
And for me, it is family personified.
In three days, The Anarchy comes together – all six kids, plus spouses where applicable, and our mom – for one week in a cabin perched on the edge of a white-sand beach. With a wide open deck outside and a fireplace in, tree-swings and bikes and a little cabin off to the side for Olive, Adam and I. One week of sand and sea and (hopefully) sun. And one week, one rare, unspoiled week of The Anarchy.
Of course, getting ten people from five different locations to converge en masse in one location is never an easy feat. Even less so, it seems, for us. I swear that the sheer volume of emails flying back and forth has been single-handedly propping up our end of the Internets, and I mean the general consensus seems to be, why pick up the phone when you can just ‘Reply All’?
The best part is that no one else responds to the emails except my sister Claire, my mom and I. The other four are just dead weight, and they remain stubbornly silent even despite pleas for input and multiple exclamation points!!!!
Because they are my siblings, because I have fought with them and hated them, loved them and wept with them, because I have known them for so many years – in the unique, too-close-for-comfort way that only a sibling can know you, I know exactly what their reaction has been though. Despite the radio silence. Perhaps even because of it.
My older brother Liam probably doesn’t even open emails from us anymore. He is most likely blissfully unaware of the 392 (and counting) mass missives being sent out on the daily. He sees yet another email from one of our addresses, sighs deeply and then creates a spreadsheet or a program or a list to avoid dealing with such fuckery in the future. Possibly composes an entry on his secret blog, entitled: “Why Is This My Life: One man’s struggle to come to terms with a quintet of irascible sisters”
My youngest sister Lizzie reads every word and frets. She reads the emails aloud, calls mom, canvasses opinions, tries to fix things. She is the peacemaker, the hand-holder. She hates discord and drives herself crazy running around behind the scenes trying to correct and quell and soften, but never enters the fray publically. Never takes sides.
Hilary. Oh, Hilary. Reads the emails while in transit from one event to another. On long boards, in the dimlit dusk of pubs and concert halls. Intends to respond, sometime even composes a draft but is distracted by- what? A friend, a knock on the door? A thought leaping into her head that she’s called to act upon immediately.
Mawney, the baby. Watches the back-and-forth with bemused detachment. Waits for us to figure it out. Refuses to have any input, answers all questions with, “I don’t care. Whatever you want”. Maintains this calm detachment until she finally explodes in a fit of rage, gratuitious use of epithets, at which point it is our turn to become spectators and watch the perfomance.
The emails had been slowing as we got closer to the day of, but then this morning we awoke yo half of a mountain sliding down and blocking the highway between us. One sister stranded on a bus in between two closed roads, another trying to figure out an alternate route that will add more than 8 hours to their already 12 hour drive.
It’s never easy. It’s never organized or efficient, we aren’t the types to march around like little tin soldiers with jobs and tasks and itineraries. We crash and collide, slide into home with a flurry of dust at our heels. It’s chaos and happiness – you can hear us coming from miles away.
It’s anarchy at its finest. And I am three days away.