— Relationships —


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Sisters. I’ve been thinking a lot about sisters recently and pining for one of my own. “Be careful what you wish for,” cautions a friend who can barely be in the same room as her younger sister before one of them erupts with age-old resentments. But as the years pass, and I relinquish my lifelong quest for a strong mother-replacement for the faulty one I was paired with, I yearn for another woman to share deeply the journey of aging.

I have acquired lots of “sisters” along the way; women who are so good, so kind, and so supportive.

And yes, I feel so blessed to have their company and caring, but this is different. It’s a blood-yearning, it’s a marrow-deep desire to experience this part of my life with someone who has been present for every aspect of it.

This doesn’t mean I am not grateful for my brother. He is the unconditionally-accepting, often hilarious, deeply-loved remnant of my nuclear family, that morass of dysfunction that left me insecure, wanting, forever in search of validation of my right to exist. (We had a father who thought it clever to call us “his parasites.”)

But somewhere in my imagination (have I been reading too many sisters-against-the world novels?), I have decided that having a sister would quench that longing.

“You are so wrong,” my friend says. “Misguided. Delusional.” But I want to share, I counter. I want to text my sister to see what she is cooking. What her kids are doing. How her bowels are functioning. I want the little details of growing old together, the nitty-gritty of being two ladies who paddled their own canoes and survived the rocks in the river, however wet they might be.

“Fantasy,” she says, “Remember? Like when you tried to ‘adopt’ other mothers.” I put them on a pedestal. I tried to be good and behave. I wrote deep pieces for my writing professor, basking in her praise. I valued another woman and sought her advice until one day she told me that if I could have just stuck to one thing, I might have been successful. I over-identified with my female therapist and had to stop going after a session where she fell asleep while I was talking about my mother. Does it get any more insulting? My neurosis is boring! So needless to say, I have been disappointed by my mother-search. Why expect anything different while looking for a sister?

My friend says: “You are looking for love in all the wrong places. Sisterhood is right beside you. You are wearing the ruby slippers.” She is right. Time to give up my television version of sisterhood; time to let go of The Brady Bunch; of Jan, Marsha, and Cindy, who filled my head with sisterly bliss.

I’ve got friends who have my back and support my front and are amused by my mishogos. And those ladies? They are my soul sisters for sure. Lucky me. I’m already home.

PS: The watercolor image accompanying this post is by Jessica King. If you’re interested in having her do something for you, check out our piece about Jessica.


  • Jen Lawrence June 1, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Debbie, what a beautiful piece! As an only child, I too have always yearned for sisters. I’m so glad you have found sister-like friends. Gorgeous writing: “it’s a marrow-deep desire to experience this part of my life with someone who has been present for every aspect of it.” Yes.

  • Susan Tolles June 2, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Debbie, I am an adopted only child and, like you, always yearned for a sister. I just knew I had one “out there” who wanted to know me too! When I finally found her a couple of years ago, my fantasy did not come true. The relationship I’d dreamed of became a reality, and I grieved the loss of that bond. What I did realize through all of it is that I have so many “chosen” sisters who love me and support me in all I do. I know I can count on them just as I could my fantasy “blood sister,” which has given peace and joy to my soul. Great post!

  • Cindy Clifford June 3, 2016 at 11:19 am

    Text me. I’m not cooking, Cate’s on facebook and bowels are good… I hear you. But I hear the flip side too. I believe that we create our own extended family. And we are sisters, albeit shorter on history, but long on understanding, on the glue of admiration and listening, of being sometimes the resting place and always the support system. So, what are YOU cooking for dinner?

  • 1010 Park Place June 4, 2016 at 8:39 am

    My sisters are by choice, not blood, and we’ve all been best friends since we were 16. It’s joyous when we get together! They’re coming to spend the weekend with me at the end of this month! Can’t wait.

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