The need for sisterhood
Special to Stars and Stripes November 4, 2022
“Hello, honey! It’s ‘Call Your Daughter Day!’” my mother said when I answered my phone last Wednesday. Mom and I talk often, but we’d never established a “call your daughter day.” However, I knew instinctually why she’d said this to me on this particular day.
It was Wednesday, and for many years, it was “Call Your Sister Day” to Mom — the day she and her sister, Charlene, talked on the phone.
Two weeks ago, my Aunt Char passed away.
This Wednesday phone call indicated that my role in Mom’s life was expanding beyond daughter. I could never replace my Aunt Char — a tall woman with a big personality and bold sense of humor, ice-blue eyes and high cheekbones like my mom, an excellent cook, a terrific baker, a talented sewer and crafter, a caretaker and giver.
I, on the other hand, am short with brown eyes and a round face. I’m a decent but lazy cook and a lousy baker. I’m crafty and creative, but less so than Aunt Char. Although my sense of humor is well-developed from years of using it as a crutch, ploy for attention and icebreaker, I’ve always admired my aunt’s bold, unapologetic, comedic style.
Growing up, we didn’t see Aunt Char, Uncle Allen, and my cousins, Shari and Margaret, as much as we would have liked because they lived in Kentucky, but my aunt’s unique personality made its indelible mark on people’s lives nonetheless.
I’ll never forget Aunt Char making homemade ice cream on her back porch on hot summer days. Sewing our Halloween costumes from scratch. Yelling at us for riding Pop’s gate like it was a swing. Crocheting nose-warmers for us to wear while sledding in Pennsylvania. Playing piano with my mom. Blaring with her Kentucky twang, “If you’re gonna stir up sh-t, don’t use me as a spoon!” and other classic one-liners. Making everyone in the Ohio river cabin laugh late into the night. Tying ivory bows to decorate the church for my wedding.
I’m honored that my mother called me last Wednesday. Although we’re not sisters, my Mom’s call means that we have a sisterhood.
As a kid, I’d sometimes go home from school with my best friend, Patti, who had two sisters. I’d watch with fascination and horror as Patti and her older sister, Barb, erupted in vicious sibling fights, scratching, biting, beating each other with hangers and hurling brutal insults. Conversely, Patti and Barb protectively coddled their younger sister, Dina, while ironically resenting their parents’ insistence on treating her as “the baby.”
At the time, I didn’t understand that the complexity of loving sister relationships often includes physical altercations and ruthless name-calling, and thought I was lucky I didn’t have one myself.
But as I grew, I found myself seeking out connections with women to fill that void in my life. There’s Patti, still my BFF. Barb and Dina, who’ve become like sisters to me, too. College roommates Heidi and Chris; coworkers Julianne, Cindi and Krista; gym pals Tina and Amy; beach buddy Grace; bunco girls Suz, Lori and Christine; writer friends Suzette, Nancy and Carolyn; sister-in-law Cara; neighbor Rebecca; military spouse friends Karen, Navarre, Jean, Erin, Suz, Natalie, Muffin, Tara, Eileen; and so many more.
And although my blood has specifically dictated my particular roles in my daughters’ and mom’s lives, they’re part of my sisterhood, too.
Sisterhood is not limited by genealogy, but rather, it’s a special relationship safe place, where women can confide and confess, boast and brag, pontificate and ponder, advise and admonish, guide and give, ask and receive, comfort and compliment, fail and flounder, vent and lament, laugh and cry — with unconditional support and without risk of abandonment.
It matters less that you don’t call, write or see each other for weeks, months or even years on end. It matters more that, when you do, you pick up where you left off last time. The recipe for sisterhood has three simple ingredients: lifelong loyalty, no competition and mutual respect.
Oh, and try not to beat each other with hangers.
In honor of Aunt Char. May you always be laughing.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: email@example.com