I did something this year that I have never done in my entire adult life. I took a vacation with my sisters – just my sisters. For five days, we cruised the Caribbean, skirting around Cuba as we explored Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Key West, FL. We group text all the time. We update each other with long emails sent while the kids are all at school. But this was new. Being alone together, talking, laughing and catching up… that was new for us. It was good for us.
I learned a lot on this cruise, like how those two can out drink me any day of the week. I learned we all had different experiences growing up that we had, for whatever reason, never shared with each other. I learned what it was like for each of them, caring for our mother as cancer slowly took over her body and mind (I was in my third trimester, and unable to travel to be there and help out.). I learned that even though we weren’t as close as sisters should be, the awkwardness of being trapped on a ship together never came to pass. Conversation came easily. Laughter, even easier. It was a really great time.
I learned something else though. I learned how similar my sisters are… and how different I was. Jill talked about work and life up at camp. All the people she meets and how she craves someone to talk to. Julie is a bank teller and likened the people she encountered on a daily basis as almost a second family. They needed that contact. It was second nature to start up a conversation with a stranger and come out with a new friend. On the cruise, we would be in an elevator with a group of strangers and one or both of them would reach out and connect with a fellow traveler. Without even thinking about it.
Then there is me. I work from home every day and rarely get out to talk with people – and I like that. Conversations make me nervous. Am I saying something stupid? Boring? Do I sound like I’m rambling? When can this be done, so I can go back home and be alone with my books. Hide on Facebook and talk to people from the safety of my computer. Call me an introvert. A slave to social anxiety. The complete opposite of my sisters. I tried to explain this to them, but they couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Their need for social interaction was so great that they felt sorry for me, alone in my writing cave all day.
Another thing that was different was that, as we approached the end of our vacation, I was anxious to see my family again. I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk and submit my next manuscript. I looked forward to getting back to my routine. They would have gladly stayed on the ship and sailed off for a second voyage. And when we got home, they pined for the sunshine and warm weather. Like, really, really missed it. They both suffer from seasonal affective disorder. I live in Seattle, where it’s grey about 75% of the year… and yet it doesn’t seem to bother me like living through winter in New England affects them. Just another thing that sets us apart.
But I gave this some thought and realized that my sisters resemble our mother. She was the life of the party, loved having all the attention on her. She always had a joke ready that would have the whole room laughing. I, on the other hand, am just like my dad. He was so shy, he wouldn’t even answer the telephone if he were the only one home at the time. Parties and visits to out-of-town family were difficult for him. He had a handful of guys he could call friends. But they were good friends. But, hey, opposite attract. And if it weren’t for the wallflower meeting the social butterfly, my sisters and I wouldn’t be here. Variety is a good thing. If we were all alike, life would be extremely dull.
I miss my parents every single day. But I still have my sisters. And I so happy we finally took this trip and got to know each other as women, not just the door-slamming, tattling kids and bathroom-hogging teens we once were. Next year we are bringing our families along. Now THAT is going to get crazy. 😉