On Siblings, Connections and Sharing Beauty

I laid in bed reading on a too-small screen just now about a long-time Chattanooga family jeweler who’s shutting their doors. After 44 years in business, Mary, the 11th woman to be qualified as a gemologist in the U.S., and her son, who now owns the business, will retire.

As I read and reread the last paragraph, and the tears just bubbled up. I don’t even know where they came from, but I’ve learned to not wonder. I just let them come.

Mary Schenck said she has great memories. She always got to see people at their best when they where in love and wanted to give something beautiful to someone. People were never angry when they shopped at her store, and that impacted her.

“I will miss my customers,” she said. “You knew you were doing something to make somebody happy.”

(via Times Free Press)

****

I walked back in my room last night after 12 hours of traveling with my colleagues to Gainesville. On the car ride home, I drifted in and out of sleep as we cruised on the winding roads through the north Georgia mountains under a clear winter sky, dotted with bright stars. I slept, I’m sure, as we passed my favorite spot on the drive, Burnt Mountain, that opens up to an incredible overlook of what I believe is Jasper.

I bet it was beautiful last night, on the shortest day of the year, cold winds creating space for reflection and lightness.

I came home to an empty house, my housemate already headed off to be with her family. But the Christmas lights Quint hung and holly he illuminated were glowing still, even after midnight. I walked upstairs, eyes weary, and opened my door. My room, having been closed all day, was warm. I crawled immediately in bed. I made it home.

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Home, from my porch.

It wasn’t until the four of us Chattanoogan team members got back in the car to leave Gainesville that the weight of the next 20 days hit me. Today, this morning, is the first day of more than a two-week vacation, a time to relax, rest and let the swirling and sometimes confusing emotions and events settle. Also, it will be a time for exploration and enjoyment as I visit my sister and Fer in Cordoba.

As I organize my travel arrangements and plans, thinking about packing and getting ready to join Wendy and Fer for the peak of summer, the longer days of light, I can’t believe it’s been more than six months since I booked my plane ticket. I remember how nervous I was buying it, not only the most expensive plane ticket I’ve ever purchased but also one of the biggest commitments I’ve made to myself to stop whatever I’m doing in Chattanooga, stop the day-to-day busy stuff, and take time for exploration and time for my family.

It’s hard not to get emotional as I write this. Yesterday in the car ride down to Gainesville, I talked with my colleague’s husband. We realized we practically grew up in the same neighborhood and had so many of the same friends and knew the same families from childhood. He said something like, “I’ve been away for so long, I forget how connected people are in Chattanooga.”

Our connections are to our families, to the families we grew up around, to the spaces—neighborhoods, schools, churches—we created or existed in. I’ve written so much about the new spaces I’m creating and exploring. When someone brings up your roots, though, your original home base, it can hit a little bit harder than just everyday connection.

Outside of my parents, there are no two people in the world who I have more in common with on a molecular, DNA level than my sister and brother. But beyond that connection of our parents, the same blood, my siblings are my lifeforce. My brother and sister are my best friends, and the two people I’ve looked up to my entire life. It’s hard not having them physically closer to me so we can share more conversations, life experiences, hurdles and challenges. Instead we catch up on the phone, exchange texts when possible. We Skype across hemispheres and time zones.

Picture 2

Thank goodness for technology like Skype!

But in the next few days, I’ll get to hug both of their necks on separate occasions. I’ll spend a day flying south, way South, across-the-equator-and-then-some south, to be greeted by my sister, my mentor, my best friend, my big sister. I’ll get to see where she lives, what her life in Argentina is like, what she does every day and then some. We’ll have countless adventures, which she’s told me she’s planned, and I look forward to those.

Wendy and me biking around Chattanooga, winter 2011

What I most look forward to is what takes me back to childhood, to the house we grew up in on Big Ridge. It takes me back to the years we shared an apartment in Knoxville, when we’d make breakfast together and lay around the house on weekend mornings, still waking up slowly and talking. Last year, when she stayed at my house over Christmas, I got to reconnect with those times, those experiences: both awake early, she came in my room and crawled under the covers with me, and we talked about whatever sisters talk about. Probably men and life and work and whatever was going on at the time.

Soon, we’ll be able to catch up, as only sisters can do, sharing whatever we share, not needing to explain to her the hows or the whys. Just being together.

****

I started crying this morning not because of some connection I had with a jeweler, no. I cried because of the connection between family members, supporting a business for nearly half a century together, and supporting a community of customers, clients, friends. All of this grounded in presenting a gem, something so precious and beautiful, to someone special.

She always got to see people at their best when they were in love and wanted to give something beautiful to someone.

I am in love, not in the traditional sense, per se, but in love with discovering, revealing and relishing in the greater connections and relationships that exist among people and beings and places. I’m in love with the process, the journey.

I want to give something beautiful to someone. I’m still figuring out what that is and who I’m giving it to. But the undefined boundaries are what makes this journey so special, and so sacred.

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