I am a sister.
My sister is 14 months older than me. She resembles my father’s side of the family with crystal blue eyes, pale skin and a curvy body. My eyes are brown. I was skinny and petite and as a kid the sun would turn my skin a reddish shade of brown. I often entertained thoughts that maybe I was adopted but that theory was debunked.
I was a shy girl, hesitant to speak up. My sister was strong and vocal so she spoke for both of us. When I was a young girl it was often a relief to have her be the one to ‘go first’ as I attempted to break out of my timid self. When my sister left for college, her absence challenged me to step out of her shadow. I spoke softly, navigating and discovering my own creative path. Although we are very different women, I am grateful that the magnetic pull of our early years took hold again and that we have remained intertwined with a close family bond. Those early years with my older sister shaped the adult woman I am. My sister is an educator and public speaker. I found my place behind a camera, and am still most comfortable to stay out of the spotlight. I continue to feel my sister’s unconditional love and protection, though at times, I still struggle to get a word in edgewise!
I am a friend.
One of the greatest gifts a girl can have is a best friend. I met mine when she and her family moved just one house away in our suburban cul-de-sac. We were 7 years old. She was beautiful, sure of herself, and had her own room! It was easy for me to run across the lawn to ‘my other home’. I’d try on her clothes, eat Good Humor bars in her basement, and watch her play the piano. She would run across the lawn to my house to help me clean my room as I watched her magically transform my chaos into calmness.
When she turned her talent into her career, I continued to be the recipient of many of her organizing sessions. One winter evening she called me to ask if she could stay at our cottage during the off-season months to write a book about being a professional organizer. I loved that I could share our little piece of heaven with her and while she was not across the lawn, she was close enough for me to visit on weekends. I treasured those weekends in our sun drenched, uncluttered cottage on the Cape. While I was creating a fireplace from collected beach rocks, my friend was writing and reading aloud. The distance between us hasn’t changed our closeness. We share our lives now as candidly as we did when we were girls asking the ouija board about our future selves. Being there for each other is ingrained in our friendship.
I am a daughter.
My mother is a nurturer. She gave up her career as a teacher to be full-time mother to me and my three siblings. She had a beautiful singing voice, an eye for fashion, a sweet tooth, and loved to throw theme parties. I saw my mom as a devoted wife and loving mother. Even though growing up I was too shy to share my inner thoughts with her, I have always felt that my mom understood what ‘I didn’t say’. There was never judgement, but rather she gave me the space I needed to become my own person.
My mom had a full and privileged family life. My dad adored her and took his role as provider and protector seriously. When my dad became ill, her devotion and patience remained steady. He passed away when they were both 85 years old. While her sadness was palpable and profound, I so admire how she found strength to live fully in the present. She is generous and open minded, travels, and embraces technology so she can stay connected to her children and grandchildren. She is now true to her independent self. At my age, some women say with sarcasm that they are ‘turning into their mothers’. I would take that as a compliment.
I am a mother.
There was no part of me that would not keep the dream of motherhood alive. After multiple losses and what seemed like a miracle, my daughter was born a healthy, beautiful old soul. I can remember holding her as an infant, wondering how such a young baby could make me feel like I was the one who was in good hands! I got lucky. She is the joy of my life. And since birth, she continues to open up the best part of my heart. Like my mom, I too am a nurturer, and my daughter has given me the stage to connect to that purpose.
Jewish mother aside, food for me has always been a vital expression of my love. I found my bliss being creative with her school lunches, and regaled setting the dining room table for Sunday morning french toast after a sleepover. I covet my role to care for, to boost, to connect with and to love. My daughter has grown up to be a bright and beautiful young woman, full of compassion, insight and enviable charisma. She continues to fill me with pride and I quietly hope my joy will be an inspiration to her.
I am forever grateful for these women in my life and will always aim to follow their lead.
— Sandy Rivlin