Almost anytime I mention my siblings to someone who’s never met them, they smile and say, “You have the most interesting family.”
Although I think that my siblings are all fascinating people, I sometimes forget what a uniquely adventurous group we are. Until three years ago, getting together was a rare event that insured we were all on our best behavior when we congregate, but I think it goes much deeper than that.
Our siblings are, after all, the longest relationships most of us have. That shared history, no matter how good or how bad, lays a foundation that can’t quite be met by any other relationships that follow.
My sisters and brother aren’t just my longest relationships, however. They are each intriguing people in their own right.
What I like best—and admire most—is that each of them has designed a life that reflects their personal passions and talents.
Just imagine a family gathering with this cast of characters.
Nancy is two years younger than I am and the one who always had the most clarity about her path in life, it seemed. When she was in junior high school, she decided to become an archaeologist.
That’s precisely what she did, becoming a leading authority on Etruscan architecture.
She lived in Athens, Greece, for most her adult life, then spent a decade in Rome before moving back to Santa Barbara at about the same time I moved to California.
We tend to think of her as the scholarly one—she is Dr. Winter—but that’s not the side we see.
Continuously curious, she is always up for new adventures and just paid her first visit to Universal Studios accompanied by my grandchildren.
My next sister, Becky, had the difficult situation of being born the middle child. Maybe that’s why she has a natural ability to organize things. Much of her working life has been spent in libraries, but her organizing skills show up in everything she does from trip planning to running her house.
Like the rest of us, she’s an enthusiastic traveler. The only one of us who is married, she is also the only one of us to have appeared in the Today Show window.
Jim is the lone male in our tribe, but he’s learned to manage it well. Besides being a genuinely nice person who often reduces me to hysteria, he also has seemed the most paradoxical.
A longtime employee of Southern California Edison, Jim is also a talented painter and enthusiastic surfer, continuing to surf as often as the waves cooperate. His gorgeous painting of Italian rooftops hangs above my fireplace, a lovely reminder of one of our family trips to one of our favorite places.
Margaret is the youngest and has a well-earned reputation as the Scrabble player to beat. Besides sharing a love of books, Margaret and I were also single parents of a single daughter each.
Like our father, Margaret is a walking encyclopedia of useful information. If i want to know how to fix something or cure a malady, I check with Margaret after doing preliminary research on Google.
Her home is a testament to her skills as a gardener, woodworker and decorator. She also makes stunning hair fascinators.
Although Becky, Jim and Margaret have spent most of their lives in California, our relationship has evolved even more now that Nancy and I are in the same neighborhood.
Whether we’re gathering for our monthly Second Sunday dinners or planning a museum outing, I always come away thinking, “I really like these people.” Then I notice that my creative spirit feels well-fed.
As Jane Howard reminds us, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”