I just finished the book “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan”. That little book left me with alot to think about. It is set in 1800 China and describes in great detail the lives of a few women. You visit the “women’s chamber” and learn about the ancient practice of foot binding, arranged marriages, and arranged friendships. Some friendships were “sworn sisters”, or a group of 3 or 4 girls/women. Some were special and were chosen to be”old sames” of only 2 girls. Both types of friendships were arranged and nurtured by the families. I’m guessing the matriarchs of the families knew/remembered the hardships of being female in their time and place.
While these things seem so foreign to our generation, one thing that remains constant through the years is a woman’s need for friendships and to be able to giggle with girlfriends. The author describes the girls spending time together as children, and then helping each other through some of life’s challenges. The main characters become estranged in their later years over a silly misunderstanding and finally reconcile at the death bed of one of the sisters.
I have watched my Mother and her twin over the years. I cannot imagine a truer “old same”. They have other sisters, but none have shared as much as those two. I remember both of my grandmothers with their sisters. It was always an honor and a pleasure to sit with those women. Those women literally lit up when they were together. I watched them giggle together as old women. My grandaddy’s sisters are another great example of committed sisterhood. Those women still make me laugh! One of the saddest things and yet most comforting was sitting in the waiting room of a hospital with my Granny’s sisters . They were there for their beloved sister as she struggled at the end of her life. They were there for each other; but I think mostly for us. We listened to stories about their families and childhood. Most of those stories we had heard many times. The comfort of that is beyond description. To be held in that shared circle of women is sacred.
These days, many of us do not live close to our biological sisters. Some don’t have sisters. While nothing can replace the “old sameness” of a beloved sister, the lucky ones make friends among the women that we see more regularly. We do life with them. The comfort of sisters and friends has surely become as sacred to me as I remember seeing in those circles of sisters all those years ago. Thank goodness for cell phones, cars, and the internet for keeping us connected to the important women in our lives.
I was driving my daughter and a few of her friends recently. Sometimes they forget that I am there and I get to eavesdrop a little. They were giggling with each other and saying how they like that they tell and retell stories. It must be attached to a female gene. How else could a teen in modern America who has lived a very sheltered life have similiar needs of friendship as her mother, aunt, grandmother, great aunts, great grandmothers, and even a character in a novel set in ancient China. Ladies, we need each other. It is my most sincere hope that you nurture and treasure your sister, girlfriends, mothers, aunts, and certainly those of the older generation who can give you wings, and roots.
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