Sisters - a moment in time
"A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves - a special kind of double." Toni Morrison
As usual I had no idea what to write about and so I thought I would go searching for a 'moment in time' in my vast photo library. Not getting anywhere I decided to click on Apple's obliging Memories button and up came a photo of my sister (not a good one I have to say, so I haven't featured it here), on one of our French holidays. Beneath this there was a selection of other photos from that holiday and the above is one of them. Three sort of sisters and a ring-in husband. An outsider!
Phillip - my sister's husband gets a look in but really only because I chose this one as my feature photo because it also includes David's late sister - also a Jenny - and myself. If you like I am the common denominator in a little sisterhood.
I'm the oldest of the three too. Although - my sister was taller than I by about the age of 6 or 8, and so I have always somehow felt like the younger sister. Indeed in my childish mind, for a time there, I thought that some mistake had been made and actually she was the older. She is still taller, and somehow more vibrant I think. She does bright coloured things with her hair - on this holiday her hair was relatively restrained - and she wears brighter coloured clothes. She has a bigger smile. So yes, she seems to be the older of the two. Perhaps because I felt like that as a child, I have somehow learned to behave as the younger one.
This morning my book group was discussing The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams - a fictionalised account of the compiling of the first Oxford Dictionary, but really about a world in which women (and the poor) were largely dismissed as being unworthy of notice. The lost words of the title were 'women's' words - and those of the 'common' people too - and I remembered that 'sister' might have been one of them. And indeed it was, but sister in the sense of a comrade in arms - the Suffragettes in this case. I'm not sure that I would describe any aspect of my relationship with my actual sister in the sense of a comrade in arms.
The modern Oxford dictionary defines sister as:
"A woman or girl in relation to other daughters and sons of her parents."
which does indeed include half-sisters and step-sisters, even adopted sisters, which I think is rather better than the Cambridge version:
"a girl or woman who has the same parents as another person"
because you only need one parent to have a half or step sister. I suppose if grow up with the same parents then the definition would suffice, but you have to think that through for yourself. A dictionary definition should be clearer than that. For what about those adopted sisters - with none of the same parents at all but raised as your own sister from birth. I guess a sister-in-law is different - there is not the same longevity there or any kind of blood relationship (normally), but nevertheless a kind of adjunct sister. But then when it comes to blood relationship - DNA I mean - I guess it is very remotely possible that you might not share any DNA at all with your actual blood sister. After all you only get half of each of your parents' DNA don't you so it is possible your sister might get the other halves. I suppose there's that extra X chromosome though - surely that must be the same.
You don't choose your sister do you, like you choose your friends, and your partner(s) in life. So sisters (and brothers of course) are an exercise in learning to get along with other people whoever they are. A rehearsal of all those work (and social) relationships you will have later in life. But it is indeed a special relationship - one quite unlike any other - even if you don't have much in common or don't get along. There's an intangible link that you just can't ignore.
"even if they don't love you they are connected to you till you die. You can be boring and tedious with sisters, whereas you have to put on a good face with friends." Deborah Moggach
You'll find a lot of gooey quotes about the love of siblings, but honestly there must be lots of siblings who don't love each other. Indeed there must be some who actually hate each other for it's also a competitive relationship - competition for the love of the parent. But there they are, you can't get away from them - at least when young - and I at least love mine. This photo - one of my favourite house decoration ones - also comes from this particular holiday and was one of those chosen by Apple, which is interesting because all of the rest featured sister Jenny. Even Apple knows I love you.
But back to the moments in time and that particular holiday - a week in a hamlet outside a small village called Quissac near the village of Sommières where Lawrence Durrell spent his last years and died, north of Montpellier. Almost the middle of nowhere. A beautiful part of the world and one of our very favourite parts of France. We visited Nîmes and its magnificent Roman arena, and all of the little villages round about, or we simply lounged around at 'home'.
The Jennys bonded too - one of life's coincidences is that David and I should both have a sister called Jenny - both of whom are larger than life than ourselves (if that's at all possible in David's case), not to mention that my brother was also called David. Our marriage was obviously meant to be.
We wined and dined both at 'home' and in the neighbouring villages although I don't have many pictures of this and if David is absent it's because he's taking the photos.
It was in many ways a very typical week in our holidays in France. A beautiful house - although to this day I still wonder whether I got bitten by bed bugs, and there were certainly lots of flies around the pool - but we were out in the country - it took us a while to actually find the house and lots of enquiries to the locals. And it was special because it was family, two sibling relationships involving a Jenny and two husbands sort of looking on at the sisterhood.
Alas David's Jenny is now gone, and I shall not be seeing my own Jenny for some time due to COVID. But we email daily and she faithfully reads my blog. But another thing that COVID is doing, I suspect for all of us, is letting us take the time to remember and reflect upon the good times.
"You keep your past by having sisters. As you get older, they're the only ones who don't get bored if you talk about your memories." Deborah Moggach
Even if your memories are not at all the same - even from early childhood because we all remember different things. And once you go to school then almost half of your life is separated from your sister's life anyway and is unique to you, and your sister's is foreign to you.
So here's to you sister. This photo was the second one that Apple chose to highlight.
It's just lovely. Happy sad. You with the love of your life but so far away in almost every sense.