“A sister is both your mirror – and your opposite.” Elizabeth Fishel
I recently returned from my seventh annual “sister trip”. I, my two sisters, and our three husbands spent almost a week in Michigan, a state to which we had never before traveled. But the “where” is not as important as the “why”. This annual traveling tradition began in 2013, shortly after we buried our last brother. It became painfully obvious to us that life is short, and we wanted to make as many memories with each other as we could, while we could.
The quote by Elizabeth Fishel describes the three of us perfectly. We are so very alike in so many ways, yet so very different in others. That statement applies not only to our physical characteristics, but also to our personalities. While physical characteristics are widely understood to be genetic in nature, there is ongoing debate as to how much of our personality is genetic, and how much is environmentally driven.
Regardless of cause, having both a mirror and an opposite can lead to some interesting personal revelations. You know that one personality trait that drives you crazy? The one you thought was totally opposite of your own? Oops. Turns out it was a reflection all along.
Physical similarities are much easier to analyze. Over the years, I have been mistaken for each of my sisters at different times. My favorite incident happened a number of years ago when my hair style happened to be very similar to that of my sister Joyce. A woman came up to me while I was shopping, grabbed my arm, and said, “Hi! It’s so nice to see you again!”
I was fairly certain I had never seen this woman before in my life.
She continued chatting merrily for a minute or two, then asked, “How’s Stan?” It was then that I knew.
I smiled and replied, “Just fine, last time I checked with my sister.”
The expression on her face began as confusion, slowly transformed to understanding, then was immediately followed by embarrassment. I assured her that there was no need for embarrassment. It happened all the time.
Yet, as much as we physically favor each other, the three of us, for whatever reason, tend to focus on our differences.
“I’m sure I have Grandpa’s eyes.”
“I think my facial structure is the most like Grammy’s.”
“You look the most like Joe.” (One of our brothers.)
“You remind me the most of Vernon.” (Another brother.)
And so it goes.
On our Sister Trip last year, after a lengthy, robust analysis of the origin of each of our physical characteristics – one by one – my sister Sherry’s husband, Olen, finally said with more than a little exasperation, “Who cares? What does it matter who you each look like?”
The three of us immediately stopped talking and stared at him. Did he just say, “What does it matter”?! We each then gave him a “What planet are you from?!” look.
Oh, right. Mars.
But the truth is, the physical characteristics really aren’t what matter. Or at least they shouldn’t. Do you want to know the one thing that does matter?
Animals and small children know what matters. They know what’s important and what’s not. Because they know that how a person treats those from whom they have nothing to gain is the truest test of character.
Animals and small children don’t care about the shape of your nose or the color of your eyes. They also don’t care about what you do for a living or how much money you make. Nor do they care about who you know or where you live.
What they absolutely do care about is how you make them feel when they are with you. Are you kind? Are you gentle? And do you give them attention?
Animals and small children are drawn to my sisters like bees to honey.
And that’s really all I need to see in my mirror.
(My favorite “sister” story is “August – The Shopping Trip” in A Year on the Family Farm.)
Next week: It’s not exactly Labrador