My 5-year old spent the afternoon at her grandmother’s house which is chock full of bric-a-brac with a large side order of gewgaws, and a heaping helping of curios. Grandma also has a lot of stuff, particularly costume jewelry and chocolate sitting around in candy dishes. My daughter adores visiting.
While I stood in the kitchen waiting for my mother to package up some ham and cheesy potatoes she had overbaked, I caught a glimpse of my estranged sister’s handwriting on an envelope. The sticker-dotted envelope sat right next to the kitchen sink. It looked like a Christmas card.
For a moment, I felt the tiniest ghost of a pang, the flimsiest regret that my sister and I no longer speak. We haven’t spoken a word to each other in over five years. A couple of years ago, I sent her an email and asked if we might discuss in through email why we weren’t speaking. She emailed back, “I’ll call you when I get there,” (there being here–she lives in Japan and was due for a visit to the Pacific Northwest). I emailed back and said, “No, we need to talk before you get here.”
She never emailed me again. She never called me, either.
It’s strange when a person you’ve known literally your whole life (except for those first sixteen months, but I wasn’t exactly a conversational wonder in my babyhood, so that doesn’t count) rips you out like a perforated page in a book. Granted, my anger at her was justified, in my opinion–despite my explicit instructions not to make copies and keep some particularly graphic pictures of my giving birth, she ordered herself copies from negatives and took them back to Japan with her. When I discovered this theft, I emailed her a concise, direct demand to return my photographs. I never got my photos, an explanation or an apology. And that was the end of our sisterhood.
Not that we were very good sisters anyway. If friends are the family you choose for yourself, sometimes family are the friends you wouldn’t have chosen in a million years–you have nothing in common other than a gene pool. For all our differences, though, we were still sisters, sister who had nothing in common, who grated on one another’s nerves and didn’t particular like spending time in the same room from our very earliest days together.
Still. She’s living a life completely outside the frame of my life. She not only cut me out of her life, but cut my children out of her life, too. I imagine it’s easier for them and yet some day, will be more difficult. They don’t miss what they never had, but one day, they’ll wonder why we don’t speak and ask whatever happened to their aunt.
And my explanation will sound so ridiculous: Your aunt doesn’t speak to me because I asked her to return some photos of me giving birth that she took without permission. The deeper explanation is so tangled even I have no idea where it begins and where it ends. You know when you can’t unravel a knot? Sometimes, you just have to cut it out and start fresh.
I guess that’s what we did.