Cannon: Giving thanks for what we don't have

Published November 16, 2012 11:55 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

See that picture right there? It's my youngest brother.

I know.

Before I explain what's going on here, let me share some backstory. When I was a kid, the thing I wanted the most was a sister because with sisters you could have the "Little Women" thing going on at your house 24/7 — putting on plays, taking your Christmas breakfast to poor children, going to balls and getting holes burned in your long skirts, making friends with the reclusive millionaire next door, writing your courageous father who was off fighting for the North, having a movie made out of your life starring Katherine Hepburn.

See what I mean? Sisters are awesome!

So naturally when my mother announced she was pregnant, I hoped for a sister instead of another brother. Seriously, wouldn't you have, too?

Only it didn't work out that way. Come September she delivered a male baby so ginormous that the doctor immediately slapped a helmet and some pads on him and put him in the game.

"Son," said the doctor, "go in there and take one for the team!"

To say I was NOT pleased would be a massive understatement. And I didn't get over my disappointment anytime soon.

How disappointed was I? My brother claims that I pretended he was a girl. I called him Judy. I made him wear a dress when our mother wasn't looking. I put a wig on him and ordered him to go get the mail so our neighbors would think I had a sister, which he did because a) he was easy-going, and b) he was afraid of me.

I truly don't remember tormenting my baby brother this way, but okay, fine. There is that picture, after all. And I think we can all agree it's definitely one picture that's worth a thousand words. With compounding interest.

I bring this up because I've been listening to people talk about the things they're grateful for.

(Author's note: It's Thanksgiving on Thursday. Remember Thanksgiving? That lovely little American holiday often forced to jump the rails these days due to those runaway freight trains otherwise known as "Halloween" and "Christmas"?)

Anyway, it occurred to me that I'm grateful for the things I wanted … but never got. Like sisters, for example.

Because I didn't have sisters, I rarely had to share a bedroom with siblings. And also I never had to share clothes once my brother stopped wearing my dresses.

But here's the main thing. People do go on and on (and on!) about the patriarchy. In my experience, however, most families are — at the emotional level, at least — matriarchies. Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts all sit down at the table together to talk about weddings, births, deaths, food, hair, scandals, current events both local and national, the past, the future, the present. Meanwhile their men stand around at the room's edges, picking up random (and often inaccurate) scraps of information. Or not.

It didn't roll out this way at my house. If I wanted to talk, I had to talk to brothers. And because I had to talk to brothers, I got to know mine and value them as wise and funny friends with whom I still speak on a regular basis. Would that have happened to the same extent if I'd had sisters? Who knows?

But for this year at least, I'll cherish what I have and count my lack of sisters as a remarkable blessing.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.