Thursday, 27 October 2011


My family tree is rather more like a family bramble bush. It makes it difficult for people to figure out my family line. Just recently, in particular, my sister and her mother.

Yolanda, my sister, is 26 years younger than me. And I never know how to introduce Vanessa - who is within two years of my age. I've tried, "my father's wife...," & "Yolanda's Mom." The one that is most accurate and works best for me is, "my friend, Vanessa..."

But that doesn't help anyone decipher connections in the family bramble. After a little explaining, folks get the AHA moment: "Oh! She's your half-sister." And " have different mothers." "Oh! Your father remarried."

Having lost my mother at 13 and left home very young, I'm a person who doesn't much deal in half-anythings or step-anythings. I have a decent-sized family, none of whom are blood relations or related by marriage. I've been in the business of DIY family building since I was a kid. I have sisters from Halifax to Milwaukee to Haye River. I have my NSCAD sisters. And I have my friend, Vanessa - who falls into the sister category and my  sister (full stop), Yolanda. 

Yolanda - last seen disappearing into a Yellow cab this morning, bound for the airport shuttle, laden down with ponchos, backpacks & a bit more bead work than she'd expected to lug home. Vanessa, on a different schedule, departed yesterday.

The apartment seems profoundly silent and empty. The air mattress is neatly rolled back into its bag and the Yolanda-bits no longer festoon the coffee table, kitchen table and various surfaces. To tell the truth, it feels a wee bit lonely.

Confirmed recluse that I am, my natural inclination, when ill, is to curl up in a metaphorical ball and refuse to answer the door. So "company" and "chemo" in the same space? I wondered how it would go.

I'm getting used to being surprised lately.  For example, realizing I might have got more than a little depressed around the edges left to my stodgy old self. Even though there were two days of toxic overload and sickness, it was good to have people here.

And I realize, not for the first time, that although my sister and I were raised apart, are years apart in age and are different in some ways, we inhabit a small space with no difficulty at all. Our rhythms are similar. The same need for conversation alternating with space, at the same times. We hold many of the same values. Vanessa and me chat as if we'd seen each other yesterday. Nothing is an effort. Separated by 1,000 miles of distance and infrequent visits, somehow my actual family turns out to be...well, real family, like my friends.

Since September, I've had more social interaction than I'd usually average in two years. And after tomorrow, I'm booked to see Colin, Ilga, Eliza and Peter.

Meanwhile, stores & galleries are asking for work for Christmas. It's nearly impossible to combine a home business and this much visiting. In the past, ignoring the fact of mortality, I gave up a social life. But now I think (not that I plan on seeing my deathbed anytime in the near future, you understand) at the end, do I really want to measure my life by the number of pieces of jewelry I sold?

Guess I'm counting a different kind of jewel these days.