Yesterday I saw the movie, Little Women. I’ve enjoyed that story in book, play, and now, movie forms. It resonates with me as the middle of three daughters– especially since the main character is Jo March– the second oldest, the writer, and the one who stirs things up. It was interesting to see each girl’s personality, her way of relating, her view of the family and of the world. I identified with all the things those sisters did together: family chores, playing, fighting, and coming together in crises– for the March family that included their father being away in the Civil War and sister, Beth becoming gravely ill.
My sisters have always supported me. I remember many acts of kindness back when I went through cancer and over the past months, the same has been true. They knew Christmas would be a challenge this year and both gave me gifts to help me through. I also bought myself a gift and wrapped it, waiting for the right time to open all of them.
On Christmas morning, my younger son, Ross came over and we ate a breakfast of ham biscuits, our family tradition. We sat in front of the fire and watched a strong man competition on television. He left to go with his dad to visit his brother– the first time in all these years that I’ve stayed behind on Christmas Day. I’m fortunate that even though I didn’t visit my brother and sister-in-law, we’ve maintained contact; You don’t build relationships for over forty years and just let them go.
I was glad that I had time to rest. All the reminders of the change in my family during the holidays and my grandson passing his virus to us, had worn me down. I turned the channel to Christmas movies, settled into my chair in front of the fire, and opened my gifts.
My sisters’ presents reflected our relationships.
Harriet is my older sister by three years. At times she was more like a ‘Junior Parent’ because she was so responsible and liked cooking and doing inside chores. But she was also one to provoke me, thinking it was funny when I got in trouble for “sassing” given my determination to have the last word. I knew that more was expected of Harriet than me, and I was glad that I wasn’t in the spotlight of my parents’ watchful eyes. I wondered what Harriet had chosen to give me in that silver box that I placed on the cupboard.
Her present was a reminder of our childhood chores. While she loved being in the kitchen, my younger sister, Peggy and I preferred outside jobs. Besides taking care of the yard and garden, we had farm animals: cows, pigs, chickens. I loved the animals– except for the chickens. Peggy’s four years younger than me, so the chickens became my primary responsibility: feeding, watering, gathering eggs. I will spare you the specifics of why I dislike chickens, but Harriet is very aware of my complaints over the years.
So to remind me of my love of chickens, to goad me and give me a chuckle on Christmas morning, that silver box contained a pair of rooster socks! That’s my older sister!
Peggy had chosen a gift to speak to my imaginative side. When she gave me the package she told me how she considered what would be the right present for me now.
“I remembered how you liked to color when you were a girl. I thought this could be a new decoration to take into the future.”
Years ago, she told her husband that when I was a girl, I had imaginary friends who lived in the dogwood and holly trees. I believe he wondered just how sane I was after that, even after my explanation that lots of writers had imaginary friends.
I opened Peggy’s gift, feeling thankful for the care she took in finding something to appeal to my love of color and my need for something new to carry forward.
My final gift was the one I’d picked for myself. I’ve always loved getting books at Christmas since Santa brought us hardbacks of Children’s Classics when we were girls. While I liked the paperbacks we purchased in fourth grade from the Weekly Reader Book Club for thirty-five cents, it was nice to have a hefty book with thicker paper that would stand at attention on the bookshelf.
What book called me now?
It wasn’t a usual choice but it was one that reflects the time. I’d chosen Marie Kondo’s, Spark Joy.
I’ve watched a few episodes of her helping clients to organize their homes and what spoke to me was how it related to joy. As I face the new year, I will be going through items that are both mine and have been shared items with my husband, making decisions about what to keep and what to let go of. I think this book ‘called me’ because it can help me to learn about myself and what gives me joy.
Kondo’s book can help me reframe this time of deconstructing as a time of self-examination that can lead to greater joy.
I sat with my gifts and felt deep gratitude for my sisters and their support. I was also thankful that I’ve learned to give myself gifts that nurture me. For Christmas morning and for the days ahead, these three gifts are reminders of taking care of yourself and letting others provide tangible signs of their love.
How About You?
Do you have brothers and/or sisters who provide support for you?
What ways do they do this that reflect on your experiences as children?