Happy Birthday, Mary, Dolly and Buffy

by chuckofish

Susanne and Mary

Our mother and her older sister Susanne, circa 1930

Ah, it is January 19th once again. My mother would be turning 90! Dolly Parton is turning 70! And Buffy Summers remains a youthful fictional character.

In the above picture our Aunt Susanne is two years older (and so much taller!) than our mother. She has a hankie and bracelets. Mary looks as if she has just been told to “Quit it!” by Susanne who probably squeezed her hand in a mean way. Susanne looks tense and my mother looks a little sad.

Growing up, we heard a lot of stories about our  mother’s perfect older sister.  Although poised and beautiful, she was also very shy. Once when she left her umbrella on the bus, she made Mary go and stand at the bus stop and ask every bus driver on every bus that stopped if they had found Susanne’s umbrella. She was too shy to do it herself and too afraid to tell her mother she had lost it. We always were amazed that she could make our mother do something like that. But she could. She probably threatened to tell on her or something. Or maybe Mary was just used to doing things for her older sister.

Not to give you the wrong idea. My mother was devoted to Susanne and loved her very much. When she visited her in the summer of 1984, they would stay up until four in the morning talking. I think she was a little shocked by her older sister’s lifestyle. She had been divorced for ten years by then and had a boyfriend. She drank Scotch and stayed up late talking. She did what she damn well pleased.

When my mother was dying, it was Susanne she liked to talk to best. “She understood,” she said.

Sisters. There is no friend like a sister, right?


And there is no one like Dolly. Of course, I’ll be toasting my dear mother tonight, along with wonderful Dolly and Buffy. And while I’m at it, I’ll toast Susanne and sisters everywhere.