Wednesday, November 16, 2011

sisterly duties.

I've often been asked if I ever wished I had a sister.

Aside from a brief period of personal history in which I had a minor obsession with becoming an Olsen twin, my answer has always been a resounding, "No." 

The reason for that is two-fold: First, I have a brother whom I have grown to love dearly, who I wouldn't trade for a thousand sisters. My brother prepared me for marriage by leaving beard trimmings in the sink and dirty underwear in the bathroom floor. He used to tell me which shoes looked best with which outfit and would happily watch Meg Ryan movies with me without complaining. (I, in return, provided gift ideas for old girlfriends and have seen Dumb and Dumber and the entire Star Wars saga.) We both love to read, both love the written word, both have a passion -- I hope -- to think and be like Jesus. 

So I have this brother who I consider a dear friend and sidekick. But there's another reason I've never really given much thought to having sisters. 

I  kind of already have a couple. 

Sure, genealogically-speaking, they're called my "cousins," but really: They function more like a couple of little sisters. I've been their proud babysitter and party planner. I've attended countless chapel programs and soccer games. We've snuggled in twin beds, spent late nights giggling ourselves to sleep, shared in the joys of scary movies and Gilmore Girls

This past weekend, I got the chance to do my cousin's hair for her first "date" (a term she hates and has deemed inaccurate, but which I am using anyway). This was a brave and bold request since I once notoriously got a hairbrush stuck in her hair many years ago. (It was really, really awful, and I was mortified.) But this go around, everything turned out beautifully, and after spraying every hair in place, I took my other little fuzzie on a date to the FSU v. Miami game. We had, as you can tell, a marvelous time.

In her book Committed, author Elizabeth Gilbert spends almost an entire chapter discussing motherhood, a remarkable amount considering she is not, in the traditional sense, a mother. In fact,  in the chapter, she actually devotes most of her attention not to mothers, but to childless women, a segment of the population she terms the "Auntie Brigade."

"Childless women, " she writes, "have always been particularly essential in human society because they often take upon themselves the task of nurturing those who are not their official biological responsibilities -- and no other group does this to a large degree. Childless women have always run orphanages and schools and hospitals. They are midwives and nuns and providers of charity. They heal the sick and teach the arts and often they become indispensable on the battlefield of life."

I myself was raised by a few members of the "Auntie Brigade"; my aunt Neena, in particular, comes to mind. Neena bought my Easter dresses and my piano lessons, sponsored trips to Italy and provided a home away from home at the beach. She came to recitals and birthday parties, offered homework help and bought me my first microscope. She always gave (gives?) the best Christmas presents and hosted movie nights at her house. On our recent trip to Nags Head, I often found myself telling Jordan, "Neena would love this!" (She has always loved history and science and all things fascinating.) She taught me to love reading and learning and thinks everything I do is positively fantastic.

Without realizing it, I think I have, in some ways, become her. 

And I couldn't be happier about it. 

I'm not sure when Jordan and I will have children. I think, really, only the Father knows when that day will come.

Until then, though, I am wondering: Am I not, to some extent, a mother already?

I love and provide for the people around me, even people who are not my "official biological responsibility." I create and craft and care. I nurture and pray for and adore. 

In Committed, Gilbert continues to write:

"My job is not merely to spoil and indulge my niece and nephew . . . but also to be a roving auntie to the world -- an ambassador auntie -- who is on hand wherever help is needed, in anybody's family whatsoever. There are people I've been able to help, sometimes fully supporting them for years, because I am not obliged, as a mother would be obliged, to put all my energies and resources into the full-time rearing of a child. 

"There are a whole bunch of Little League uniforms and orthodontist bills and college educations that I will never have to pay for, thereby freeing up resources to spread more widely across the community. In this way, I, too, foster life. There are many, many ways to foster life. And believe me, every one of them is essential."

Saturday night, I french braided hair and bought cotton candy and gave dating advice and offered moral support. I fostered life. 

I was a sister and, in a sense, a mother and a member of the "Auntie Brigade." 

I am more than content with those honorable titles.


Lauren said...

I love this post - so true and something I need to remind myself of. It is BECAUSE of the place I am in life that I am able to devote so much time, energy, and love to ministering to high school kids. Thanks for the reminder :)

fuzzin said...

It was not a date! but thank you for doing my hair and not getting the brush stuck in it this time. Also, I love the third picture. thanks mom

Purposely at Home said...

great post, annie. love the pics too. :)

our home to yours said...

I am a mom, and as a mother, I can tell you we really love and appreciate the auntie brigade, who can do things that we mommies may be too busy being mommies to do, or just too plain
- ourhometoyours

Annie said...

i love this, annie! i never had a sister, either, and i used to want one badly - in fact, i cried when i found out i had a brother. but he and i have gotten to be best friends, and i wouldn't trade him either, for anything.

Kelly Sauer said...

A roving Auntie... Oh I am grinning. This post is so sweet!