Many women have felt sorry for me over the years because I have no sisters. (No brothers either, FYI, but not the point of the post.) I recall an incident in college shortly after the sister of one of my roommates had visited. My roommate and I were both primping in front of the bathroom mirror when she said, “Hey, boob.” I was understandably confused. She explained that she and her sister have these little “things,” rituals if you will, where one will say something and the other will just get the joke and respond accordingly. Her sister would’ve said, “Hey, tit.”
“Yeh, cause I have only child things, too,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Aw, man!” My roommate said as she slumped her shoulders and trudged out of the room in defeat.
I meant it as a joke, and I do have some only child “things”–like being alone and getting along well with grownups–but I know she felt bad because she felt I was missing out. Just like when one of my cousins said, “Oh, right,” after realizing I was at the table and that her statement, “Everyone has sisters,” wasn’t true.
I’ve had to find my own sisterhood over the years, and I don’t think it’s entirely unlike blood bonds. My sisters and I have never lived under the same roof while under parental supervision, but we love and defend each other and fight and miss each other for various reasons. What’s different and difficult is that the lack of bloodline leaves us with little obligation to see each other, no matter how much we miss one another’s company.
During the holidays, this is hard, especially as our lives (or their lives, rather, as mine has been stagnant for years now) change. Some of my sisters are now significant others, wives and mothers, and while I know they would welcome me to their holiday celebrations, I would feel like I was putting more pressure on them when the husband and in-laws are probably already providing enough. (As in, “Oh God, another person who needs my time and attention. Geez…”)
So this thanksgiving I felt a little awkward surrounded by my cousins and aunts with sisters. It occurred to me while writing this that my grandmother doesn’t have any sisters now either, the second of hers having died earlier this year. This was expected and she wasn’t sad, but I asked her yesterday if she misses her sisters.
“I sure do,” she replied, much to my surprise. “We used to talk two or three times a day.”
And then our conversation was interrupted by the loud toddler in the room who doesn’t have any sisters yet, either.
When it continues, I want to be bold enough to ask if the holidays feel bittersweet to her as she watches her daughters and granddaughters interact, but I probably won’t. I’ll just watch from the sidelines and take some bittersweet comfort in the irony of my grandmother’s and my sisterhood based on missing our sisters.