“At the last moment before we die, all becomes clear that only love matters. So why don’t we all just get clear NOW?” Marianne Williamson
Hot temperatures like these–especially when night falls–bring me back to the bed I shared with my sister. The summers we shared as girls were enjoyed, or endured, without the aid of air condition–so we had to be creative in keeping cool–particularly on airless evenings.
One of our favorite tactics was pouring a glass of cold water onto our pillows. I remember the relief I felt when I placed my head on that cool pillow case–and I remember how quickly it got steamy again–at which point, I’d turn it over to soak the opposite side.
Steamy nights are rare in rural Vermont where I live now, and when they do come, we are ill-equipped to handle them. Most of our energy is invested in keeping warm–even on summer nights–when the New England temperatures can be downright cold.
If we do get a short spell of warm weather, a small fan usually does the trick. But not this week–with temperatures rising past 100 all over the Northeast.
I feel a similar temperature rising within my family of origin as we move closer toward my sister’s August wedding. I’m afraid that as the last of us comes of age, the family dynamic is heating.
Ten years ago, we buried our mother when the youngest was only 14. Things were sticky then too, but roles and authority were clearly defined by familial order, and we were aligned by the singular focus of devotion and grief.
Now that everyone is an adult, the balance of power and responsibility needs to shift–or maybe needs to be relinquished altogether. But I also fear this separation–because our familial unity has defined us–and me–for so long.
Twenty-five years ago, our parents made a mess of a divorce and we siblings became a family unto ourselves. To my surprise, others recognized and commented on this unique bond which we had taken for granted out of necessity.
Now the 8 of us are spread out between 4 states, spanning the country, and we’ve lost touch with the day to day intimacy of childhood. On the hot summer night that our mother died, we all slept under one roof again–and even shared the floor–with wall to wall air mattresses around her dying bed.
Now that she’s gone, I’m not sure who to talk to about the heat rising among us. I wish it was as simple as placing a pillow beneath each head–with a cold glass of water on the night table should things get steamy.
It would be simpler still to just let us fall apart from one another in the heat of this lifetime together. Many siblings do. Most maybe. We could easily let a cooling distance form between us. It might feel good.
But if we don’t want that to happen, we’ll each need to get creative–finding ways to cool our heads–while keeping our hearts warm.