In every family there is a person that holds the center; around whose gravitational pull the other family members orbit. We refer to them as patriarch or don’t really consider their role until they’ve died and the loosely held lines of the family tree split into new directions.
I was lucky as an adult that my eldest sister decided to be such a force for cohesion. If you’ve followed along with our shared story then you know the fractured nature of our father’s relationships and the many ways the adults in our lives made poor decisions and created rifts.
Emmanuelle is quite a bit older than me but we share some similar life experience that made it possible to bridge both the generational and cultural differences between us.
I first met her when I was in my twenties. Struck mainly by the dimples all we half-sisters share, as well as our similar temperament. We stay calm and a bit aloof or inscrutable unless provoked, or unless relating a particularly entertaining story.
She shared her many dramatic stories and photos and we compared our separate lives as performers as well as narrators. A person like this in a family — the one who holds everything together — is an invaluable service. Having a well-documented life in photographs is a wonderful thing for me on both sides of my family, so rife with entertainers. I get to see the life stages that I missed, spotting the moody teen years and comparing them to my own. The serious phase followed by a more contemplative mien.
Certainly, it takes bravery to face messy emotions and be willing to look at the past.
A kind, serious, and funny person.
When my daughter was small we made a trip back to France to visit various family members. Her two strongest memories of that trip were picking strawberries in her aunt’s garden.
And then check out my kid’s face when I took her into a very old abbey and we visited the stations of the cross for the first time in her life.
Yep, that made an impression.
I am grateful; many other relations who learned of my existence later in life walked away from me, but my half sister Emmanuelle held out her hand and shared her stories with me. She bridged that age and cultural difference with great effort and made space for me in her life narrative. It’s because of her that I now know so much about my own history and I’m able to catalogue it here, painstakingly putting together the shards into a mosaic so someday my own kids can benefit from knowing their family history.
Plus, she’s a great storyteller and I always appreciate that.