Last night a gentleman friend informed me that today is International Women's Day. Yes, I was informed of this by a man. I have no idea why I am so utterly clueless except that I don't watch the news or read the paper if I can avoid it. I digress, though, from the original point which is that today is a day to celebrate women, and I'd like to pay homage to some special women in my life - my sisters.
As I've mentioned previously I have four older sisters. Not only am I the youngest, I am the youngest by several years, meaning that at times growing up it felt rather like having five mothers. This was both a blessing and a curse as they all seemed to have eyes in the back of their head and knew when I was up to no good. On the blessing side I was privy very early to the world of make-up, clothing, shoes, and a wealth of good advice (which I routinely ignored, of course).
I could tell you a lot about my sisters - their careers, their families - but I respect their privacy and instead will tell you a bit about my relationship with each one. I don't really have the words to describe my feelings for them, so this will have to suffice...
My eldest sister was 15 when I was born. Family lore says she named me, and chose my name based on Saint Theresa of the Little Flower (yes, my family was Roman Catholic - pretty obvious, isn't it?). Now, there have been times when I actually regretted her choice of name, especially as I grew older and embraced my inherent atheism. I felt the name marked me as religious and I even toyed with having people call me Tracy, which was fine except I always forgot to respond to it. As the years have gone on I've made peace with the name, and recently in Ireland actually found it a bonus as when I was introduced by name every Irish person assumed I was of Irish Catholic origin - with a name like Theresa what else could I be? This delighted me, as my husband and daughter, who recently nicknamed me "IrishWannaB", can attest. Name aside when I was growing up I was slightly in awe of this sister. She is fiercely intelligent, beautiful, and successful, and seemed a tough act to follow. She left home to attend university when I was still quite young, and as such was the sister who sent uber-cool presents from exotic places like Ottawa. In many ways she continues to feel like another mother to me.
My next eldest sister is one to whom I freely admit I was not close when growing up. I didn't really understand her, I suppose. She seemed so serious all the time, so focused. This is the sister who while in university would be so exhausted that you could enter the room, turn off the TV she seemed to be watching, and she wouldn't notice. What I didn't see at the time was her seriousness and focus was the result of her drive and ambition, which was formidable. She had goals, and she planned to attain them - and she did. When my husband returned to university as an adult student we moved back to the city we had grown up in, and rented a tiny apartment just a couple of blocks from this sister. I was in my late 20's then, and far more appreciative and understanding of her personality. In the four years we lived there she was incredibly generous, taking us out to lunch or supper at least once weekly, and she and I became very close, as we remain to this day. She has become not only a sister, but one of my best friends as well.
My middle sister had the unenviable role of middle child. I was relatively close to her as a child, but this changed a great deal during my teen and young adult years. She was always far more religious than I, and when I finally realized that I was (and likely always had been) an atheist I thought the gap between our world view might be unable to be bridged. She married the first, was the first to have children, and moved out of my immediate sphere fairly early. She became focused on her family, and I was very much focused on a life of fun as I was in my late teens and early twenties. During those years I remember some spectacular arguements with her, too, ones that shame me a bit now as I realize as I've grown older that I don't have the market cornered on having an opinion. In recent years things have changed again as she became a huge support to me during my father and mother's illnesses and deaths. What became even more apparent when we spent time together is that despite our differences she and I are very similar in sense of humour, attitude to life, and things in which we find pride. The discovery that I enjoy her company was an absolute joy. She has become a treasure in my life, the kind of treasure you didn't even know you had.
The sister closest in age to me has always been close to me in other ways as well. This was the sister with whom I shared a bedroom during parts of my childhood. She was a known neat freak, and as such leaving a book on the bed to go to the washroom was perilous as you would return to find it shelved alphabetically. She was also the sister who taught me cynicism when she found a toy car in the heating vent at the house we'd moved into, and sold it to me for 50 cents. Why? She explained that it had "sentimental value" and thus she could not just give it to me (I was probably about 7 at the time). That story became family legend, but it taught me a valuable lesson - how not to be taken in by a con! She was the sister who took me to university classes with her on a regular basis and with her on weekends to her job at the university library. She opened a world to me that had seemed mysterious, and allowed me a sneak peek into it. I was her maid of honour at her wedding, and I was so proud to be asked to perform that role for her. She gave me so much of her time during years when she was busy with school and work, and I remain grateful for that. She and I don't talk all that often, but when we do it is always comfortable and easy, and I continue to feel very close to her.
I know I started this post talking about my sisters, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention another woman in my life - at least, a girl on the brink of becoming a woman. That would be, of course, my daughter. My daughter is stunningly beautiful, ferociously intelligent, and funny as hell. You know she is special when she is able to charm almost every adult she meets, and when others describe her as accomplished - at the age of 11. She talks of her goals and dreams, like where she will attend university (not if, but where - current front runner is University of College Cork in Ireland). She is not perfect, and I see occasional glimpes of teenage attitude that flare like flashes of lightening from a summer storm on the horizon. She is, however, the most perfect thing I have ever been involved in. When she becomes a woman she will be a force to be reckoned with. Watch out, world - you've been fairly warned!
So, there you have it, friends. These are the favourite women in my life. These are women who have inspired me, motivated me, spanked me, and otherwise made me who I am. I hope you've had similar women in your life because they make life richer, happier, and frankly more entertaining than it would be otherwise. Today might be International Women's Day, but for me it is "celebrate the women you love" day. To my sisters and my daughter I raise my glass and say "Slainte" - and I thank you for sharing your life journey with me. I treasure each and every day I have with all of you.
Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves - Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin