When I was in fourth grade, my Grandma Mormor (which as an adult I recognize is like saying “Grandma Grandma” since Mormor is the Swedish word for grandmother… but I don’t care) passed away over Christmas break. We weren’t planning to go to Marquette for Christmas, but when an aneurysm in my grandma’s head burst, sending her straight to the hospital with a severe hemorrhagic stroke, we packed up our clothes and our Christmas into our blue van and drove straight up to the UP. Although she came through a surgical repair successfully, another stroke left my grandmother brain dead and life support was removed the day after Christmas. She was only 60 years old when she passed away on December 26th. I chose not to go to the funeral because I was scared (of the funeral? of death? of my grandmother’s body? I don’t know…), but I regret that now. I did write her a letter that was placed in the coffin. Regardless of whether I was there or not, she knew I loved her, and that’s all that really matters.
My Grandma Mormor’s birthday was February 24th and I always think of her then. She was happy and gorgeous and made amazing oatmeal on her kitchen stove. Her house always smelled good and she wore a floral apron in the kitchen. I know other people have other memories of her, but mine stop at the age of 8 and it’s all beautiful to me. I also always think of her on December 26th… the day she died. She would have died on Christmas, maybe Christmas Eve, without artificial prolonging of her life. But nobody wanted that, so she was allowed to pass on the 26th and the 26th always had something of a pall over it. It was not a good day.
On December 26, 2011, my sister’s first child, her daughter Emma, was born. To me, it seemed like the universe had righted itself again. December 26th was no longer a day for mourning, but for celebrating this amazing little life that came into our family. Today, Emma is three and more amazing than ever and I am so grateful for the gift of timing the universe gave our family.
Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but December 26th feels bigger than that.
This year, December 26th also marked 14 days after IUI— the day I could take a pregnancy test. Something else to make the 26th of December even more significant. My sister found out she was pregnant with Emma on my dad’s birthday. We were both excited about the possibility of me finding out the same on Emma’s birthday.
I’m not pregnant though. No need to test. (I did, just in case, but it was negative. No ambiguity here.) Remember, I said I’d tell you either way. I was hoping for the other. But a promise is a promise.
I guess the fact of the matter is that we all struggle, in our own unique way. Maybe we don’t want children and others see our familial choices as incomplete. Maybe getting pregnant is easy, but the timing is poor. Maybe the timing works out, but our child isn’t as “perfect” as we would have expected. Maybe everything seems just right, but postpartum depression settles in. Maybe things get tough with your toddler, your adolescent, your adult child. Maybe you can’t get pregnant at all.
The good news is that you don’t have to get pregnant to have a family. And families are beautiful and imperfect, no matter how they come to be. There’s no right way, no wrong way, when you fill a home with people (or animals!) who love each other, it really doesn’t matter.
I know all of that, intellectually. But to really know it… that’s tough stuff. So for now, I’m going to let myself just be a little sad. Really sad. Disappointed. Confused and upset and frustrated and guilt-ridden. Just for a little while.
I’m also going to drink enough wine and take enough cold medicine to make up for all that I passed up over the last couple of days on account of the potential for pregnancy– a little Christmas cheer to go with my Christmas cold.
Do you ever have a moment where you just get really excited about something and have to share? This is one of those moments! And then it spirals. Man, blogging is just happening right now.
My Aunt Susan, my beautiful and amazing aNut, who I have loved forever and ever and who I enjoy getting to love differently with each passing year (more on that in a minute) is married to a man named Ed. And he is from Scotland. And because he’s awesome, and he loves my aunt and is therefore required to love me (except I think he might even if he weren’t actually required) he wore his real deal kilt to my wedding and lets me call him Ed, the Scot, and also plays the “Doctor.” “Doctor.” game with me (because we’re both doctors– the PhD kind)… so I was ridiculously pleased when I saw a series of recent posts on Facebook of my Uncle Ed, on tv, and basically winning a Dead Poets Society competition.
It was too good! All of it!!
Here he is, at the mic, on tv, basically winning…
And then they showed a picture of the audience, including those three people that make my heart swell!! Ed, my aNut, and my Grandma. Love, love, love!!
So exciting! I’m ridiculously proud! And not just because Ed is from Scotland and a PhD in physics and married to my Aunt… but mostly that’s why 😉 Regardless, he’s my most favorite man that any of my mom’s sisters have ever, ever, ever been married to. Ever. So glad he’s in the familia!
Anyway, about my Aunt, who I’ve been thinking about a lot lately (and not just because I’m working on a late birthday present for her– which I am, and it’s awesome), but also because she’s the best person I know at talking about love and relationships between people. The best.
We talked before about how when my sister was due with her first little girl, Emma, I basically freaked out. I was terrified of losing my sister. We’ve all seen Frozen, we should all be watching Once Upon a Time (because it’s awesome), so we all know there’s nothing worse than losing a sister. Television and movies don’t lie.
And neither does my aunt. She was so re-assuring and honest. She told me that Abby would still love me and I would still love her, but that it was true, our relationship would change… and that I would be amazed at how much I would love her little girl.
Right. On. The. Money.
And now she has another one– precious little Claire, who I also adore with all my heart. Abby is different now, because she’s Emma and Claire’s mom, but she’s still my sister and I love her something fierce. And Emma and Claire are so different, yet I love them both in a crazy auntie kind of way. Differently, because even so young, they’re already very different people, but so so so intensely. I was so worried about Abby changing that I forgot to consider that possibility that being an aunt my just change me too. I’m so glad that it did!
The point I’m trying to make here though, most of all, is that the way I love my sister and the way I love her girls, my sweet little nieces, changes the way I love my aunt. Not for better or for worse, but from a different perspective and with a whole new sense of complete and total gratitude for the way she has loved me for so many years. I had done nothing to earn it, except by being an extension of my mom, but now I know what it feels like to love that little being anyway and I can appreciate just how loved I was (and am, of course!) by my aunt.
It’s a special bond, you guys. And I’m so excited that Abby has two little girls and that someday Emma and Claire will be like Rita and Judy (my grandma and her sister), Beth and Susan (my mom and her sister), and me and Abby. It’s a crazy and beautiful thing.
It’s interesting to note though, that Judy had three boys and so did Susan… perhaps that’s what will be in the cards for me! I do like patterns.
The letter L is coming, don’t worry, but today I must I interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a very important announcement.
Baby Claire is here!
My champion Fisky sister was admitted to the hospital at 7:30 am on Friday, June 27th and didn’t stop (or eat any real food!) until she had herself a baby at 9:09 pm. And, as expected, she’s perfection.
World (i.e. readers of Under the Tapestry), please welcome my newest niece, Claire Elizabeth.
This is what really kills me though– Claire with her big sister. And Emma is being a top notch big sister. Turns out, she’s way less selfish than I was when my baby sister came around!
Could they be any cuter?!
It’s times like these when this distance is extra hard. My sister is so much more than just my sister, she’s my best friend, my confidante, my favorite person on this Earth… and Lake Michigan is IN THE WAY of all that at the moment.
Maybe it’s for the best though. Emma and Claire have two sets of devoted grandparents who need to squeeze those cheeks and spoil them rotten before it’s my turn. So I’ll leave them to it… for now.
But get ready, girlies! Auntie Rachel is on her way!
And don’t worry, Fisky Sister, I’m fully prepared for cooking, laundry, dog walking, diaper changing, Lifetime movie watching… whatever it is that you need. I’m even bringing you dairy-free banana muffins! Surprise! Best sister ever!
(Don’t worry, she won’t be reading this right now. She just had a baby… a SECOND baby. No way does she have time for bloggity blogs.)
First thing Thursday morning, I’ll be trekking across the UP (yesssss…) with several books on CD and plans to stop at the lovely little rest stop in Naubinway for a photo op on the dunes of Lake Michigan. Then across the bridge and downstate a ways to Midland, land of these little darlings.
Only a couple more days!
I will likely have some relatively shoddy internet in the interim (making an overnight stop at a cabin in the northwoods with my husband and his family), but I’ve got stuff cooking for the letters L and M… so you can expect them shortly. I just wanted to take this moment to share the most shiny silver lining of all.
True, I have no babies. And I’m having a lot of trouble trying to have babies. As such, it can be hard to watch other people have baby after baby after baby and know that I can’t. It’s hard not to feel broken. But then my sister has one… and wow.
The truth is that someone else having a baby has absolutely no bearing on whether I can or can’t, will or won’t, should or shouldn’t. It’s unrelated. And it’s amazing. My sister has brought two incredible little humans into this world, and even I am surprised at how deeply and how quickly I’ve fallen in love with them.
I’m sure it’s good to be a mama, but I don’t know that good yet. What I do know is that it’s great to be an auntie and awesome to be a sister. And I’m happy to be those things any day, any time.
Because I can’t let my dear friend Dawn down, ever, let’s return to the letter E for just a quick moment.
Now on to the letter F!
April 9th, 1987 was the last “normal” day of my life. I was three and already an old lady in my mind.
The next day, I was sitting in the living room of a family I barely knew when a tall, glasses-wearing, balding man in work clothes came walking up to the door. I yelled out, “Daddy!” and was absolutely mortified when it wasn’t him. I was so embarrassed that the lady I was staying with thought it would be nice to give me some jello. Green jello.
Green?! Salt in the freaking wound! Of all the jello colors… green?! Ugh.
(Note: I have no opposition to the use of green jello as one of many layers in a delicious multi-layered jello salad, which incidentally counts as a side dish rather than as a dessert in the great state of Wisconsin. But green jello on its own? No thank you.)
Before that, I remember being in the hospital with my mom and dad and leaving without my mom. What the whaaaaaat?! As far as I was concerned, it was my mom’s job, passion, life to take care of me and now I was to be abandoned. Abandoned to the not-dad and lady with green jello.
On April 10th, 1987, Abby was born and I was no longer an only child. I had a sister.
I’m a jealous and self-centered person by nature. I realize that sounds super self-deprecating, but it’s the truth and certainly not unexpected of a three year old. (Not so hot at 30; I try to be better.) My sudden realization that I was no longer alone, no longer the sole focus of my parents’ combined adoring attention was basically devastating.
In the months that followed, I came down with a severe case of what the doctor called “Abby-itis”… constant nagging, yet invisible, ailments that required frequent trips to the doctor. Ahhh… attention. Very astute diagnosis, Dr. Stone.
Sometime around high school or so I stopped calling my sister Abalucus (and singing the accompanying song that ended with “Abalucas, you smell like rotten po-taaaa-to peels!!!”) and switched to calling her Shabsky. I don’t know why. It just came to me.
Then she got a middle name– I started calling her Shabsky Balu. Short for Shabsky Baluga. Last name? Fisk. Why? No idea.
(Imagine my shock when I went to google an image of a “baluga” whale only to find out that it’s actually spelled “beluga”… too late to change the nickname birth certificate now!)
Most of the time I call Abby Shabs, short for Shabsky. When I use it after “I love you,” it’s Shabsky Balu (on account of it rhymes and rhyming is awesome). When I’m feeling a little more formal, it’s Shabsky Baluga Fisk. When I talk about her as my sister, I call her my fisky sister. And now you know.
Turns out, Fisk isn’t a terribly uncommon word. Johnson and Johnson’s CEO’s first name is Fisk. Fisk Johnson. And there’s a historically black college called Fisk University in Nashville. I doubt very much that I had ever heard of either of those things back when I started calling my sister that, but it’s good to know that I may actually be able to purchase a Fisk sweatshirt someday when I finally make it to Nashville. (Shhh… don’t tell Shabs!)
My fisky little sister is freaking amazing.
You don’t even know.
(Unless you do know, and then I have no doubt you agree.)
She’s gorgeous, like so gorgeous you want to hate her, but then she opens her mouth and you think “oh, poor thing, such a ditz” and you love her… except then she suddenly puts on some steel-toed boots and a hard hat and tours you around her million story chemical plant, knowing all the ins and outs and pipes and valves (she’s a chemical engineer) and you realize that, actually, she’s freaking brilliant, and you want to hate her all over again. Except you can’t, because she’s ridiculously and crazy and genuinely nice. She’s just so… fisky! It’s the only way to explain it!
After I skipped third grade, Abby and I were far enough apart in school to guarantee that we were never in the same building. I never really knew how exceptionally sad that was going to be though until I went away to college and moving away from my sister was like leaving a little piece of my heart behind.
Imagine the surprise this warranted for the three-year-old self trapped in my 17-year-old body!
I’ve always loved her, but it took distance for me to really appreciate her. She told me when I moved away, “Don’t get drunk. Don’t get pregnant. I love you.” and then made me a bunch of killer soundtracks for life to take with me. I came home that year to watch her run in a cross country meet and to do her hair for her Homecoming dance (I colored the ends of her exceptionally bright blonde hair red with a washable marker– it was genius, she looked so great). We got closer that year, after I moved to the very opposite end of the state, than we had ever been before.
Since then, I’ve felt like my fisky little sister and I are basically intertwined. I love every single second of time I get to spend with her and I miss her always when I can’t. But, to be perfectly honest with you, I got really nervous about our relationship in December 2011 as her first due date rapidly approached.
I knew I already loved my niece more than anything, but I was jealous all over again. I like thinking of my Shabs as Rachel’s sister… I didn’t think I would like very much when Abby stopped being Rachel’s sister and started being Emma’s mom.
Good news, though! They’re one in the same! And as much as I think babies are cool and whatevs, no one is as cool as this crazy little Emma girl that my sister (and her husband, the illustrious Stu man) managed to produce– she’s amazing! A little mini-Abby! And I adore her!
Abby’s got another due date rapidly approaching at the end of June… she’s going to have another little girl, I’m going to have another niece, and Emma, that lucky ducky, is going to have a sister. I know how it’s going to feel for her at first; her world is going to be turned completely upside down. Little does she know, it’ll be the best thing that ever happens to her… because there is nothing better in this world than having a sister. Especially if she’s a real fisky one 🙂
Abby and I have always said that if we ever have a girl, we can’t stop having babies until we have another girl because every girl should have a sister. I know my mom and Aunt Susan would agree. So would my Grandma Rita and Great Aunt Judy. So far, my Shabsky Balu is batting a thousand– good work, Fisky!
What about you? Do you have a sister? Is she fisky? I hope so!
PS: My brother, aka my Stubby little Stubnitz, is pretty dang ah-ah-ah-mazing too. And he’s lucky enough to have TWO awesome sisters. If you ever wondered how wonderful life would be with a sister, he’d be the one to ask. Eh, Tombo?
Also, he’s going to write a book. He’s really good at writing dialogue. Like reeeeal good. Sometimes he sends me snippets of said book via text message in the middle of the night and I always, always, always want to read more. I’ve given him permission to use a couple of my more spectacular blog sentences (mostly because it flatters me when he says he likes them) and I fully plan to be acknowledged right at the beginning. Look for it someday!