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Mothers and Sisters May 7, 2010

Posted by markgeil in Family, Uncategorized.
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Every day I wake in a foreign land. Foreign, not by geography, nor by citizenship, but by something far more fundamental: gender.

I grew up in a home of rambunctious boys. We wore the knees out of our blue jeans, my brothers and I. We got the house awfully dirty, I’m sure, though I didn’t notice at the time. We hit each other a lot, because that’s what boys do. Our dogs used to wrestle, biting at one another and rolling around the yard. I remember being alarmed, thinking they were fighting. “No, that’s how they play,” I was told. Now I realize, that’s how boys play too.

My dear mother – and here permit me to add a hearty Southern “Bless her heart” – was the sole female in our house, and she handled her lot magnificently.

Today, though, Mother’s Day has got me thinking about daughters.

I now have much in common with my mother, being the lone representative of my gender in a family of five. In the beginning, I was completely clueless about this mysterious female gender. My dear wife – bless her heart – has handled her own lot magnificently. She helped me understand that females are wired quite differently than males. She taught me volumes about communication, and expectations, and gift-giving, and sacrifice. And then we had these three daughters. And so my education continued.

They’ve taught me much, to be sure, but they still baffle me sometimes. On second thought, maybe “baffle” is too strong a word. There are things about them I don’t understand, but I’m so accustomed to living in this foreign land that I shrug them off and keep on about my business. That’s where Mommy comes in.

There are conversations in our home between sister and sister, between mother and daughter. Sometimes there are lots of words, and sometimes words aren’t even necessary, because there is some strange female understanding at work. “How was your day” elicits an entirely different response when Amy asks than when I ask. That’s fine with me, but it makes me so grateful for Amy. On this Mother’s Day, I’m so glad all these strange females have someone of their own kind to talk to!

I read some lines of poetry today by Christina Rossetti, and they made me realize something. Part of Amy’s role in our home is to teach the girls the value of a confidant, to model for them that unique and everlasting place each of them can have in the others’ lives. She’s teaching them the value of sisterhood.

I love my brothers, and I completely understand our relationships. I will never pretend to understand what sisters can mean to each other, but I see it happening in our home, and I am so glad. Thanks in no small part to their wonderful mother, I think our daughters will be able to live out Rossetti’s words for the rest of their lives:

Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
‘For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.’

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