Sister, do you know my name?*


sisters

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I do not have a sister.

Not by blood. Not through marriage. Not even through friendship.

I have one brother who has never married. We are not close.

My husband is an only child.

I once had a friend with whom I was so close we often referred to each other as sisters. In childhood we promised we’d always be there for one another for the happy times, the big moments, the darkest hours. We were, for the most part, there for each other through childhood, teen years, college, careers, marriages, babies, divorces, rebounds, and the little things in between.  But as we hurtled toward midlife, our lives grew more complex and distant. She began to turn more to her biological sister. There were issues of a personal nature that, I guess, were best kept within the bounds of bloodlines.

Until recently, I fully blamed her for the loss. Now I know I’m responsible, too.

I don’t understand the responsibility of having a sister, of being a sister to a woman.

I fantasized about having a real sister. I begged my parents to have another baby, hoping the next one would be a girl. But my parents assured me that two was enough. I imagined a world much like the Brady Bunch girls, coated in pink frosting and slumber parties and silly little fights over borrowed headbands and shoes.

I was insanely jealous of my friends who had older sisters who could teach them how to wear makeup or smoke a cigarette properly or how to act on a date.

When I went to college, I left my neighborhood friends behind and never replaced them. I didn’t pledge sororities. I joined a few clubs but never found any kindred spirits in any of the women I met on campus.  I spent most of my adult life seeking and maintaining relationships with the opposite sex. I was at different times a girlfriend, a fiancee, a wife.

I’ve also been the woman who more easily befriended the men than the women at work. Friendships with the opposite sex are a delicate dance on a very thin line. It is the rare spouse who tolerates 2 a.m. phone calls from “she who is just a friend'” or appreciates letters sent by “he who moved away but we still keep in touch.” Those friendships rode away on a tide of jealousy.

My mother does not have sisters. She has sisters-in-law, but they are not close. What I saw of her friendships during my childhood were a string of women who seemed extremist in whatever path they were following. The alliances seemed short-lived and ended dramatically.  Mostly, I had no idea what my mother did with her friendships. It was a part of her life I didn’t see.

I’m much better about friendships today. I make the effort. Through career, common interests and motherhood, I’m blessed with a bounty of wonderful women friends. But are any of them a “sister” to me?

I have two daughters.

They are sisters. They delight in this. They call each other “sister” and “sissy.” Nothing thrills me more than to see the two of them holding hands or entwined on the couch under blankets watching a Disney movie or one sitting still while the other paints her toenails. They already are miles ahead of me in understanding the sisterhood.

Are women without sisters missing out on something? Am I yearning for something that is over-rated?

Is is through the mother-daughter experience or luck of the sibling lottery that we learn how to forge these relationships?

I’d like to know what you think.

* Post title taken from a sweet song written by one of my favorite bands, The White Stripes.

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