Sisters and Aunts and Daughters and Nieces and Holidays

Rockwell Thanksgiving Thanksgiving always makes me think of the people who are missing.
 By now that's almost an entire generation: my parents, aunts, uncles
and grandparents.  We all came together at our house.  As the oldest
cousin, I got to help in the kitchen and set the table. Sounds lame but
it felt very grownup.  Not that that lasted for long.  Over the years
we went from three to six to nine cousins, producing plays to perform
after dinner, playing Sardines and Murder, telling secrets and wreaking
civilized havoc.

My favorite memory, though, was time with the sisters: my mom and my aunts.
 One lived nearby but the other came with her family from Cleveland so
when they were all together they wanted to talk.  They'd sit in my
parents' room for ages; they let me hang around too.  In a way, all of
us gathered on the bed those afternoons, and later in the kitchen after
dinner, washing dishes, is women passing along stories and traditions, preserving the wisdom of
the tribe.

I had no idea then of the value of those times.  It
wasn't just being treated like "one of the girls," it was the sisterly
warmth, the laughter and sudden emotion, eye welling up, when one aunt
spoke of living so far from "home."    Now, probably 50 years later, I
can see her leaning against the wall, her sisters looking toward her
with understanding sympathy.  I can hear them talking about their
parents, my grandparents, one difficult, both disappointed with their
lives.  For a little while, the burden of worry lifted a bit as they
shared it.

They were part of what is literally another world;
hats and gloves, scars from the Depression, government service during
World War II, an abiding sense of appropriateness.   Like Betty Draper,
they left careers to stay "home with the kids."  Their lives were so
different from ours, constrained and regulated — lives that many
daughters went to work to insure against.  

What we forget is
that, even then, there was sisterhood.  Maybe it wasn't as powerful and
certainly it wasn't as organized, but for me it still modeled a
solidarity, loyalty and love of the company of women that I still
cherish.  And it's so exciting to see us all now, taking that example
along with the many farther afield, to enhance our larger community –
still a family of sisters – from one end of the Internet to – well – to
the whole wide world.

Cross-posted at BlogHer