|John Nichols and his "big sister" (Atlanta, GA)|
Simple. In the late 1960s, when I launched my first career as an early childhood educator, in Cambridge, MA, I met John, his ten siblings, and their parents. And I immediately claimed them as mine. Since then, neither time, nor distance, life, nor death has changed our relationship status. So, of course, I rearranged my schedule on short notice to catch up with this brother-visitor in town from Hawaii. John is on an east coast tour seeking galleries, institutions, festivals, and marketplaces to show his art.
John's youngest sibling, Karen, was among my first beautiful and brilliant Head Start students. When Karen, age six, arrived the first day of school with her slightly older sisters Esther and Linda, their expressions read: "What kind of place is this? Who is this child-woman who calls herself teacher?" Today, Karen, who earned a degree in education from Gallaudet College where she met, then married a fellow student from Nigeria (now, a professor at their alma mater) is mom to three great kids.
John's elder sister, firstborn Esther, raised her family in their childhood Cambridge home after their parents, Joe and Stella Nichols, sold it and retired to Mashpee, on Cape Cod.
|Joe and Stella Nichols, in their Cape Cod garden, spring 2004|
(The night before Yom Kippur we spoke, among other topics, about Unetaneh Tokef. I had been studying this prayer in the High Holy Day liturgy, and Joe asked me to read it aloud. We spoke our usual brief time — more than an hour, and only ending the call because of my bedtime!)
Stella, the woman whom I called "Inspiration" since our meeting that first Head Start year for Karen and for me, died 21 months ago, at age 83. She remains a tree of life — many roots, many branches: my beloved surrogate parent, adored sister, treasured friend — a total force for good.
Family. Bloodlines is one way to be family. Marriage confers family status, too. And, there is family of choice, the one we populate with people whom we claim and who claim us. It is so simple to accomplish. Reach across artificial divides. Remain open. And, only connect.
Josh Gomes is scoring points for Israel