Friday, July 13, 2007

A Message for Joy

About this time of year, I start seeing them - announcements of family reunions. Some of these families are huge, and have a grand time gathering hundreds of their relatives together, the logistics of which boggle my mind. I never can quite fully engage in a conversation when people are talking about their many uncles and aunts and cousins. My sister, Joy, and I only knew intimately one relative on our dad’s side - his mother- and she died when we were young.

Our mother had only one sibling, a brother, who went on to marry and raise 3 boys, our only cousins. Add to that our maternal grandparents and our great-aunt Bessie, and we could have held a family reunion in a fairly large closet.

Of course, Daddy and Mama had more distant relatives, cousins and such, but they usually seemed to us to be just acquaintances we’d hear about or meet occasionally, not people we really considered “family.”

As for me and my little sister, it was just the two of us, our age difference being just short of 2 years.

I’ve read that you’d better learn to get along with your sibling, because of all the people in your life, they will have known you the longest, longer than your parents (whom you will most likely outlive), longer than your spouse, and longer than your own children.

Joy and I didn’t have to learn to get along - we just did, most of the time. We were raised in an environment of no DVDs, no computers, no Nintendo, and a mother who didn’t work outside the home. Our companions consisted of a radio playing oldies music (not what we now consider oldies, but what our mom considered oldies), occasional TV (mostly on Saturday mornings), various cats, an injured “foster” wild bird, and a rooster named Mr. Fluff. We had loads of library books and whatever else we could find around the house to amuse us.

We were rarely bored. We built tents out of sheets on the clothesline. We played in the garage. We played dolls. We wrote and acted in our own plays. We created our own spy agency, initiating meetings and dues. We saved up and bought a bicycle to share. We played badminton in the front yard. We played jacks with Mama’s real rubber ball. We played Monopoly and gin rummy and checkers. We colored pictures in coloring books, then demanded that Mama grade them. We planned so well for the beloved annual family vacation trip that we made lists of what to pack months in advance. We lay in bed at night with our transistor radios under our pillows, listening to the latest pop music. We liked the same groups (The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits and Cowsills). We liked the same TV shows (Honey West, Wild Wild West, The Avengers). We both sang in the choir (she was an alto and I was a soprano). We both survived years of piano lessons with Miss Vuille.

We constantly rearranged our room. We always shared a room, and always shared one closet, so it was fortunate we got along.

Yet, as we grew, there were differences. We both took Home Economics in high school, with my falling in love with sewing and Joy finding it way too frustrating. She went on to graduate from college and get an advanced degree from Ole Miss; I could only tolerate one year of college before I was ready for something else. She moved to Washington, DC, for a while, and I stayed close to home. I married at age 19, and 4 years later had my first child. I am now enjoying the role of grandmother. Joy, on the other hand, lived an independent life after college for a few years, got married later, and started her family later, so she is now the mother of 2 teenagers (God bless her!). My interests developed into playing the pipe organ and harp, cross-stitching, and quilting. Her interests took her into gardening and woodworking. I can applique flowers, but she knows all their Latin names.

We were "the 4 Tiffins" for so long that when our Dad died, we put only 3 red roses on his casket, representing the 3 of us left. We were always a closeknit family, and, in our glorious childhood naivete, thought everyone else grew up in the same kind of environment, until we grew older and wiser and realized we had been so richly blessed.

“Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.” The author of this quote is unknown, but the idea rings true. Today is Joy’s 51st birthday, so, I guess, as of today we have known each other for 51 years. That seems like a long, long time. But it has been filled with love and laughter (LOTS of laughter!) and I am proud to call her my sister. Happy birthday, Joy! Here’s to many more years of sharing our lives!

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