This past Tuesday I was on the phone with the Squirrel Hill Flower Shop ordering flowers for your birthday. After I picked what we wanted and gave the saleswoman your address for delivery she asked me to tell her what I wanted to write on the card. Since the flowers were from all of us, I warned her that there would be a lot of names and I started listing them. Sam & David, Katie, Ari, Avi & Koby, Lou & Rick. Eight of us in all where there used to be three, and we just keep growing.
Everyone tells me all the time how lucky I am that my family is so close. That I have sisters who are my best friends, that the boys we married get along so well, and that we all like and enjoy each other. That we make an effort to get together as often as we can. That there are near daily phone calls, emails, presents sent, Facetimes and Gchats. That we not only know what is going on in each other's lives, but care deeply. That even though we don't all live in the same city, we do whatever we can to bridge the geographical distance, and do it well.
And when they tell me that, I always agree that yes, I am - we are - lucky, but I know it's not really luck, or not only.
Since we were little, you have shown us what it means to live, and live well. To be caring and giving and loving. To be a good sister and a good friend and a good person. We learned from you that sometimes things won't be rosy, but to smile anyway, put our heads down, forge straight ahead, and trust that better things lay ahead. And you taught us that when in doubt, call a sister, because when something happens to one of us, it's happening to all of us and we get through it by sticking together. That's just the way it is with family, and with sisters. Over the past few months I have put that advice to use over and over again and the hardest things seem easier, and I feel lighter, because of it.
You taught us that home is not synonymous with perfection. It's a place where there might be dirty dishes in the sink and maybe last week's newspapers on the living room floor, but also a place where there are stacks of books, delicious snacks in the kitchen, and where family and friends feel comfortable to gather and to stay as long as they want. And anyway, perfection is overrated. Because from you we learned that it's far better to leave the dishes for awhile and eat some popcorn in front of the TV, even if you accidentally drop a kernel or two on the floor. And we are better off because of it.
You showed us how to build lives and families of our own, and how to love in a way that makes those lives and families interesting, happy, and strong. You taught us what to look for in a partner, and fortunately for all of us, we followed that advice and found the ones we were meant to build those lives with. You gave us the freedom to be ourselves and to become the people who we were always supposed to be, and because of you, all three of us are leading lives and becoming people that we can be proud of.
We are, in short, nothing without you. All of us.
Maya Angelou passed away earlier this week, and in the deluge of her quotes that have surfaced all over the internet, one of them struck me:
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style."
Thank you for passing along to us your passion, compassion, humor and style, and thank you for teaching us - and allowing us - to thrive.
Happy, happy birthday.