A few weeks ago my husband and I hosted a pool party. Our guests were a colleague and friend of Bryan’s, her family, and her sister’s family. Of Taiwanese descent, these two sisters—twins—live on two different continents, miles and cultures separating them and now their four daughters.
And yet you would never guess from these sisters with their close connections and clear involvement in each other’s lives that this separation is the case. Their depth of relationship has been fostered by intention: annual trips to visit each other, frequent phone calls, daily emails. One of them explained their reason to me while we were splashed, sitting too close to all the pool action. “It is important to me,” she shared, “that my girls know their cousins and that they see how valuable my relationship is with my sister. Hopefully, when they are grown and creating lives of their own, they will keep in touch and be part of each other’s lives.”
The second of four siblings, I am indebted to my sisters, biological and otherwise.
Since I was two years younger than my older sister, I had the advantage of seeing how she negotiated school and friends, dating and going away to college. She was my first example of a young feminist although I suspect she no longer embraces the term though many aspects of her life reveal aspects created, if subconsciously, by the feminist movement.
In Jr. High school I remember my older sister playing basketball and cheerleading and generally being a leader. She was easy to follow. She was outgoing and intelligent and people just generally liked her. In High school her talents really began to shine: she was class president, head cheerleader, and with her forensics partner, was hilarious, which is to say, unbeatable, in impromptu one-act plays. When she started dating which in those days meant you wore your boyfriend’s class ring I learned how to cut small pieces of foam padding and affix them to the ring making it fit just right. Well, as much as it could being about thirty sizes too big.
My older sister was everything I wasn’t. She was a popular cheerleader; I didn’t make the cut. She could banter with the most boisterous guys; I sat in the back and watched. But her friendship with me gave me confidence to find my own way emerging as it did, I suppose, when instead of following in her footsteps and playing the flute, I opted for, shall we say, a more imposing presence created by a trombone.
When she went to Kansas State University and immediately became involved in dormitory administration while studying political science, her early political views started to shape my own. She was keenly aware then of how under-represented women were in the political system and her attention to state elections where women won heightened my awareness. We celebrated, I remember, the day when Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed as the first female Supreme-Court judge. And when Nancy Landon Kassebaum, a Kansan, (Kansas used to be a progressive state, one of the first granting women the right to vote although after World War II is has reverted to being a very red Red state), was elected to the U.S. Senate—the first woman elected to the Senate for a full term without following her husband—I thought surely my sister would end up working in her office. The stars just seem aligned that way.
But other sisters have shaped me, too. Melanie, Kathy and Polly, Louise and Mindy, Donna and Margaret, among others from George Fox University (some who are no longer there) have taught me much. From them I learned many things, including the necessity of good friends, an open patio, and evenings punctuated with gut-splitting laughter and a perfect slice of fresh blueberry pie. Too, I have gained from these feminist sisters how to negotiate environments not yet ready for outspoken feminists: how to be true to one’s convictions and not be broken by patriarchal strongholds. I know people often think feminists are angry or dour or too serious to have fun. Well, they haven’t met my feminist friends who are none of these things.
The EEWC (Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus) sisters have also taught me. They have shown me how to trust who I am, including this feminist self who has grown extraordinarily tired of patriarchal-laden Christianity expressed in most contemporary churches. By contrast, the worship experiences at EEWC gatherings are fully inclusive and intentionally designed to embrace Godde. The Spirit is celebrated in all of Her dimensions and until you experience this yourself, all I can say is: you must because there is no way I can convey what it is like.
While our current political milieu would encourage us to maintain divisiveness the solidarity of sisters calls instead for understanding and for vision. I thank Sophia for my sisters and for the many ways they have nourished within me a sense of self and the courage to embrace who I am: a sister.