Since it has come up, I may as well tell the story of the sister. Because after growing up an only child, I feel lucky to now have one.
My mother has many, many secrets in her life (which spread into mine) but that is not only a topic for another post, but perhaps another cathartic diary altogether. But one evening when I was 30, having not even lived in NYC a full year yet, she calls me up and tells me I have a half sister. She had had a child in secret before I ever came around and now that child had found her.
It was not easy news but none of that was due to the reality of a sister per se, but more about being lied to repeatedly and in such a way that makes you consistently feel you matter nada. But I was very ready to embrace Debra, who had already found her birth father, another sister, yet had not really connected with any of them.
The news also sent me on interesting trails as to how I connected with women for awhile too, because I was working as a makeup artist in a high-powered salon on Madison Avenue at the time. I told nearly every woman who got into my chair what had happened to me. And their stories were amazing. So many women had distant aunts who gave away children, or had terrible backstreet abortions. The 50s: women had the pointy bras, man, they had the fuck-me gear, but not much else to cope with it….
She looked just like my mother. So much so, I figured I never had! I wondered what indeed my own father must have looked like (I have never met him; do not know who he is). The same resilient smile, the same knees… the very same breasts. She slept with me in my studio apartment and when I woke up, I felt about five, for that was when mom was 33. I felt like she was sleeping next to me.
- Till she opened her mouth, of course! Because Debra was and is razor-sharp, a feminist, an analyst and a shrink. She’s got ideas about every single thing and great verbal abilities.
She and her husband came to my wedding out here in Oregon and it was only then that she met her uncle and such, as our mother would never break that news. But I relished in outing the situation and we all had so much fun during those few days.
It was Debra who took me aside one day during all of that time and sort of shook me:
“You did not leave New York and all of your friends and all of that money to work at Saks here. You are going to live as an artist – finally! It’s what you were meant to do and what you absolutely must do. And he is going to help you, believe it or not. That’s it and there is no other way.”
I am simplifying it here, putting a saga of a novel into 420 words, but she has been good to me and straight with me (kind of a rare quality). Just through writing this out, I know that I am going down there, whether southern California adores my paintings or not.