The Legacy Project | Week 5 - Siblings

The Legacy Project was born out of a need, a responsibility, to write down my own stories, my history, for my children.

Last week I wrote all about my parents, but what about those other people that grew up in my house along with me? Yep, my siblings. This week is all about them.

I am the oldest of four. My sister Becky was born two and a half years after me, then Nick came along three years later, and Simon arrived on the scene two years after that. My parents were brave souls. I have my hands full with two kids. I can't imagine having four kids under the age of 8!

Probably my earliest memory is of when my sister was born. I remember being lifted up by a nurse so that I could see into her bassinet at the hospital. I have very few memories of those early years in the UK but I do remember playing elaborate games of dolls with my sister, setting up lots of little bits of furniture on the floor and creating "houses" for them. I remember those games of dolls continuing for quite a few years, actually, even after we moved to the U.S.

Once we moved to California, my sister and I befriended a couple of sisters living a few houses down from us, and we were over at their house all the time. I think Gina and I probably tormented Becky and Lisa quite a bit, but we used to play with them too. I remember all being together at the kitchen table one day, painting each others' nails, when a pretty sizable earthquake hit! We all huddled under the kitchen table until it was over.

I have some faint memories of Nick being born, too. I remember Becky and I had to sleep over at the neighbor's house, and I remember being scared in the night. I remember my mom being in the hospital and I remember my dad picking us up the morning after Nick was born telling us he had long black hair!

The first few years in California are sort of a whirlwind in my brain. Most of my memories are of being in school or being at school friends' houses. I was in the second grade when we arrived and Becky was in preschool. Nick was still a baby.

When Simon was born, my dad brought all of us to the hospital and left us outside in a courtyard there while he went into the operating room with my mom (she had a c-section with both my brothers). I was left in charge. While we were out there, Nick fell down and started screaming. I couldn't see any injuries to his knees, but then I realized there was blood coming from his mouth. My dad heard the screaming from the OR and came out to find us. He ended up down in emergency with my brother, who smashed in his two front teeth!

I think we all went through periods of being closer to one sibling or another as we grew up. We all shared rooms with each other at some point. Becky and Simon have the closest relationship of all of us - they still hang out regularly.

BECKY

Becky is a happy, creative soul. In pretty much all my memories of her as a kid she has a smile on her face. She was small and had long blonde braids in elementary school. She played point guard on the school basketball team and was really good. At her games, people used to say “look out for the little girl with the braids!” She has always been really good at art - drawing, painting, photography. She loves crafts and design and painting her nails 😃 She also LOVES cats. She has two (I think!) at the moment. 

In high school we took dance together and also did a lot of theater together at the local community theater. Becky is pretty introverted and yet she was still head cheerleader in high school, which cracks me up. 

Becky went to college at UC Santa Cruz and studied film. She worked in a preschool for a number of years after college and then for a media company. Now she works for Netflix! She married Dave in 2005 and they have one daughter, Lucy, who was born in 2010.

Becky is also one of the most caring, selfless people I know. She works very hard every year to raise money for a pediatric cancer charity, and in 2009 she donated one of her kidneys to my brother Nick. I am constantly in awe of her loving heart and aspire to one day be half as selfless and giving as she is.

NICK

I remember Nick being a “cool” kid. He had very specific opinions about things like his clothes from a very young age. My memories of him are mostly of being outside - playing basketball and skateboarding. He was a bit of an imp 😃 He had a mischievous laugh. We are six years apart so we didn’t mix in the same group of friends or in the same activities. I remember him always being up to something though!

When Nick was a baby he was pigeon-toed so he used to have to wear these weird shoes to bed that had a metal bar between them to try and train his feet to turn out correctly. I wonder if that type of therapy still exists? I have such a clear memory of those shoes.

In high school Nick was very into cars. I remember he had a VW bug that he was always working on. There were various other vintage cars over the years too. I don’t remember when the tattoos started, but they did, and now he is covered in them 😃 Nick has a gentle soul too. He rescued a dog and nursed her to health and she was his for many years. She just recently passed away. 

Nick lives in Long Beach, CA. with his awesome girlfriend, Morgan, and he works as an electrician. 

SIMON

Simon is the baby of the family. He was in kindergarten when I was in 8th grade, so for that one year all four of us were at the same school (a Catholic elementary school near where we grew up). Simon was a super smart kid - which I think led him to being pretty bored in school until he got to college (then he just kept going and going - he graduated from law school a few years ago). 

Simon is also the most adventurous of us all. For a while he spent every summer traveling somewhere to do some sort of work - he spent time working at a school in northern Ireland, he spent time in Sierra Leone, and also in Azerbaijan. He refused to take a camera to any of these places, which I am still mad about! 

Simon is a super uncle - he loves spending time with his nieces and nephews. He is easygoing and fun to be around. Simon lives in the Bay Area and does lawyerly things (I can’t keep track of where he is working these days… Simon??). He is passionate about helping those in need and about social justice causes. He's a pretty dang good guy.

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So, to sum things up - I am a really lucky big sister, blessed with four awesome siblings. We don’t see each other often but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t constantly on my mind and in my heart. Love them all to pieces and can’t wait until the next time we are all in the same room together again.

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
— Desmond Tutu

Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.

The Legacy Project was inspired by the 52 Stories Project.